Crash! Boom! Bang!
The frustration of being out through injury was lessened considerably in the build-up to the weekend by the prospect of watching the Stormers on Saturday and Roxette on Sunday.
Duane Vermeulen, Joe Pietersen and I flew to Johannesburg early on Friday morning to do appearances with a few of our sponsors. We landed at 7:30am and I enjoyed my first experience of the Gautrain. It felt like I was in Europe until we went past a group of locals kitted out in pink rugby jerseys. I was immediately reminded exactly where I was.
I was then persuaded by Duane and Joe that that my entry to Twitter was long overdue. (If you'd like, follow me: @nickkoster23).
A few people have inquired about the number 23. 'nickkoster' was already taken, so if you read this blog, Nick Koster on Twitter, I'd love to meet you! I thus had to come up with a number. And instead of putting 1 or 8 or something similarly corny, I chose 23 because that’s my age and this weekend I happened to be the Stormers’ 'player 23'.
Bryan Habana’s brother Brad – their sons were surely called Brad and Bryan by the Habana parents just to cause deliberate confusion – was in charge of all our events over the weekend as he runs Club Newlands. And a fine job he did for us.
He organised for us to test drive a McLaren belonging to the Daytona Group in Sandton. It is the fastest car in South Africa, reaching 0-100km/h in 2.9 seconds. That's faster than Schalk and I can hobble 0 to 2km/h at the moment. No, just joking – we are both making good progress and are running well.
I flattened my foot when the traffic light turned green and let go almost immediately because it felt as if I was about to take flight. Duane says he had a good crack on the highway, which is impressive because he is as big as the car and probably weighs more. Joe wasn’t as impressed with the speed, as he is used to travelling at those speeds with ball in hand at Newlands.
This car is so fast that you get dizzy when you flatten the accelerator. That’s genuinely how I experienced it!
On Saturday, I met up with a group of my Bishops mates who have graduated from UCT and have begun their professional careers in Johannesburg. We went to the beer tent before the game and watched Robbie Wessels perform. What a great entertainer he is!
We then experienced what everybody described as the most awesome rugby spectator experience of our lives. It was epic.
I thought we handled the Bulls’ kicking game adeptly. Peter Grant made such intelligent and skilful use of his boot. The Bulls had the majority of territory and possession but our defence was so resolute that they weren’t able to dominate the collisions as they aim to do and their smashing at us brought them few rewards.
The sequence of Deon Fourie’s steal at the breakdown, Jean de Villiers gathering a chip charge-down, Quinn Roux’s skip pass, Siya Kolisi cutting the defensive line, and Bryan’s switching to the inside of Siya to run in the winning try, will be a memory for the ages!
Roxette on Sunday brought an end to a wonderfully memorable weekend. I have happy memories of Roxette going back to when I was at junior school, as many of their tracks were big hits in the Koster household during the nineties.
It’s been interesting observing the massive outcry at only three Stormers having been selected for the Springbok squad, but it should be borne in mind that Schalk, Duane and Andries Bekker were all probably game-day starters before their injuries, which would have pushed the Stormers’ tally up to six.
My personal opinion is that Peter Grant, Siya Kolisi, Gio Aplon, Joe Pietersen and Juan de Jongh were all decidedly unlucky not to have gained selection, but I do appreciate Heyneke Meyer has one week to prepare for a test series against a settled, highly competent England outfit.
I’m sure the Springboks will play a very similar style to the Bulls. And why wouldn’t they? Heyneke has won Super Rugby titles with that pattern of play and you wouldn't expect him to veer away from something that has worked for him.
As I see it, with the short preparation time available, he has gone with players whom he trusts; building his team around those he has worked with before and who understand his systems. As his tenure continues, I’d guess he will look to widen the Bok selection net by bringing in players like Bash, Siya, Juan, Gio, Joe and perhaps one or two more Stormers players.
If Allister Coetzee were the current Bok head coach, he probably would have gone with more Stormers on the same basis – trusted players familiar with his strategic approach. It makes sense to me.
But we have fascinating times ahead, with some superbly talented players out of favour, and I know they will fight for positions in the Springbok team.
The rest will be a huge positive for our Stormers squad, especially since there are a lot of players with injury niggles.
The squad get one week off completely, then one week of conditioning and rehab, and then one week of full training before we advance to the final stage of the competition.
I’m excited about the Springboks v England test series, and I am delighted for Jean de Villiers that he has been appointed Bok captain.
Feel free to add a comment or question below and I’ll tackle the most interesting ones.