Bin Laden and bonus points
I saw Dr Spike Erasmus last Wednesday. He injected a gel into my knee to help my recovery process. I was told to take three days off so did not train at the HPC.
In my absence, a new nickname was bestowed upon me. Gio and Juan now call me Bin Laden, apparently because of my scarcity. It's good to know they miss me.
On Friday evening Robbie Fleck, Siya Kolisi and I attended a fundraising evening at Bishops aimed at raising funds for rugby scholarships for kids with potential.
Our attacking play was scrutinised and were asked if we have planned moves and lines to run for six or seven phases. Siya gingerly replied: "No, I'm not that clever. I can only think for the first phase."
It certainly doesn't look like that when he plays, as he has had a superb season. He is the most amiable, loyal friend off the field too, and his sense of humour is an asset to the team.
The Vodacom Cup victory was wonderful to watch. It was a fitting end to an amazing campaign.
What stands out in that group is the quality of people involved. They are captained by an absolute warrior, who commands respect through how he treats others. Nick Fenton-Wells has been a true inspiration.
Coach John Dobson's speciality is getting everyone involved in the set-up to love one another. He focuses more on team spirit than any other coach I know and, inevitably, that is why these guys play for each other. He also believes in giving players something more than just tactics or recipes to win, by educating them in a variety of different ways.
He might not look it, but Dobbo – with an undergrad and three post-grad degrees – is highly intelligent and he’s even had a novel published recently. It's titled 'The Year of the Gherkin' and is probably the funniest book I’ve ever read, with laugh-out-loud humour. See, Dobbo, I told you I’d publicise your book!
John Dobson and Dawie Snyman have been involved in over 50 games since joining Western Province and have lost only four, winning the under-21 competition and Vodacom Cup along the way. Significantly, they have also added an immense amount of value to the lives of so many players.
Sidney Tobias – who has had such an impressive season as WP hooker – has a lot to do with the 'vibe' in the team. I think when he retires from rugby he could walk straight into a career as a comedian. He is known to his teammates as the Brown Clown, as a tribute to his sense of humour.
On Sunday, Bryan Habana organised a surprise birthday party lunch for his wife Janine at Crystal Towers in Canal Walk. The dress code was all white with a touch of pink.
Non-stop entertainment was supplied by Robbie Fleck's four-year-old son Jack. He’s a bundle of energy and the effort in trying to get him to sit still must be similar to trying to housetrain a dinosaur. He rushed up and down the stairs, climbed on the tables, stuck his face into very possible photo, and even ran on a treadmill in the gym next door.
There has been quite a lot of criticism from the public and media with regard to the Stormers' pattern of play, most specifically an assertion that we do not put sufficient emphasis on creative attacking play. I am often asked why we don’t run the ball more and aim at scoring four tries in every match.
Allow me to give my perspective.
I’d love to play as I did at school, attacking and counter-attacking even from deep inside our own half. I’ve realised, though, that to attempt to play this sort of pass-and-support fluent running rugby at professional level does not constitute the most effective approach.
Winning rugby at higher levels unfortunately becomes more about the team making fewer errors as opposed to the team creating more. It has almost got to the point where it is safer and preferable to defend rather than to attack.
Out of the eight playoff games at the World Cup, seven were won by the team with less possession, the exception being New Zealand against Argentina.
Even I – someone who has grown up and loved playing running rugby with attacking flair – have to admit that defence produces winning rugby. Defences have become increasingly tight, and emphasis in training these days is as much on defence as on attack.
Rugby at lower levels lacks the defensive intensity and commitment that makes attacking at Super level such a risk. It’s easier to attack at schoolboy and club level.
The higher the level, the more rugby becomes a game of chess, with every move carefully thought out with a plan in mind. Excitement should be drawn from doing something extraordinary against extremely tight defence, since a try at this level usually comes as a result of breaking a team down tactically.
I believe that instead of criticising the Stormers attack, one should first bear in mind our ability to close out tight games, our defensive organisation and commitment, and our resolve in breaking teams down and strangling them tactically.
The standard of performance expected of ourselves within the Stormers camp is so high that even though we’ve been winning, we constantly strive to improve our performance whereas people are constantly striving to find something wrong. We’re aiming at producing a perfect performance.
The bottom line is that we have won 10 out of 11 games, some in very difficult circumstances, and therefore have a lot to be positive about approaching the June break.
That being said, the next two weeks will be crucial to the campaign. The Sharks and Bulls present massive challenges.
Bin Laden will be watching with great interest and support. Feel free to leave any questions or comments below, and I’ll tackle the best ones.