Stormers assistant coach Paul Feeney says squad morale remains high ahead of their final tour match against the Rebels on Friday. DYLAN JACK reports.
Since beating the Lions and Sharks, the Stormers have suffered three successive losses against the Hurricanes, Blues and Reds. In all three tour matches, they wasted potential match-deciding scoring opportunities.
The Stormers could field a fairly young side on Friday, with captain Siya Kolisi – who is being rested – joining Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Chris van Zyl and JD Schickerling on the sidelines.
Speaking to the media on Monday, Feeney said the players had kept their heads up despite a disappointing tour.
‘They don’t lose belief or confidence. But if you build a lead then the opposition start playing differently because they start chasing the game. In that first 15 or 20 minutes [in Brisbane] we could have been up by 14 points and that changes the way the Reds decide to play.
‘There are always big moments in matches, game changers. Sometimes a team just needs a little bit of luck somewhere and then confidence or momentum grows from that. We are looking to finish strongly. There is no reason we can’t beat the Rebels on Friday.
‘After eight games, if we have won four, and played six away from home, and we have six games at home coming up out of the last eight, we are well in the hunt [for the quarter-finals]. Especially when you look at the South African conference at the moment. Everyone is knocking over everyone.’
Feeney added that despite the loss of several key locks and loose forwards, they have faith in the enthusiasm shown by youngsters such as Ernst van Rhyn and Cobus Wiese.
‘Seven players have gone home from this tour, which is a hell of a lot. It is a lot of experience lost too. The flip side is that some of these guys are getting opportunities. We are excited about Friday’s game. We haven’t got some of the big names up front, but the boys who are here and the other experienced guys need to step up.
‘People always talk about having a good balance of experience and youth. Guys like Ernst van Rhyn and Kobus van Dyk have massive enthusiasm and work rate. They are good players and are just chomping at the bit to get out there.’
The Stormers will announce who will stand in for Kolisi as captain for Friday’s game later in the week.
Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix
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