DirectAxis FBRFC - DHL Stormers
2019 pre-season encounter
Professional rugby met up with some of the best amateur players available in the WP Club Rugby leagues at False Bay RFC in Constantia on Saturday and judging the event as a spectator, it as a success worth repeating around the Province should the opportunity arise.
Attracting probably the biggest crowd seen at the venue since the Gold Cup Final in October 2017, fans were treated to a group of players, including non-playing Springboks such as Pieter-Steff du Toit, Damian de Allende, Eben Etzebeth, Steven Kitshoff, Siya Kolisi, Bongi Mbonambi, Sikhumbuzo Notshe and Damian Willemse, completing a rigorous hour-long fitness session.
The Stormers start their Super Rugby campaign in a fortnight with Saturday's run-out against a motivated DirectAxis False Bay outfit and then a quality Combined Club XV, made up of talented local non-University club players, giving coaches opposition to measure progress to date in a match situation. Both outfits delivered quality resistance for their esteemed opponents in a dress rehearsal before Sunday's 'Super Hero Sunday Double Header' at CT Stadium.
False Bay delivered a high quality, competitive performance. Although going down by five tries to two, the national amateur champions were a determined, focused outfit on both attack and defence. Their approach to offensive defence exerted the kind of pressure which ensured that this was not going to be a shadow rugby session and when given the opportunity to attack, the Bay ensured that the defencive structures of the Stormers were kept honest and focused.
The large crowd, Stormers fans to the core, soaked up the sun and occasion and the times that the local amateur team scored, raised the proverbial roof with their howls of delight. They further demonstrated their appreciation of some of their favourites who took the opportunity to shine against their esteemed opposition. Here Bay darlings Danie Roux and Riaan O'Neil caught the eye.
"It was an outstanding occasion" said Stormers Assistant Coach John Dobsen. "The vibe, the crowd, the passion. In some ways some elements of WP rugby at its best, competitive club teams and players, a big, diverse and cheerful crowd and some sublime skills.
"Both the Stormers opposition teams got stuck in and from a Stormers perspective it was a great exercise. It was our first real contact, with some big hits and thankfully no injuries" said Dobson.
False Bay coach Johnno van der Walt was happy with his team's performance, especially considering the early stage of his team's season. "They were happy with our physicality and we managed to test their defence and cause a few overlaps resulting in us crossing their line on more than one occasion," said van der Walt. " All-in-all we are happy. No injuries from our side and the guys got to test themselves against the best".
Watching their heroes play the game from so much closer than at the larger stadiums also added a personal dimension to the occasion. The close proximity to the action allowed spectators to feel every tackle, experience the exhilaration of every line break and almost smell the liniment on the players' legs. It was rugby that reaches all the senses.
Yet it is the excitement and fervor of the fans that is the enduring memory of the day as scores of kids, young and old, were given the opportunity to meet their heroes personally, secure an autograph gladly given and have a picture taken which will be treasured forever. It is here that the humility of the players shone through as they patiently signed anything that would accept ink and posed with youngster, parents and grandparents.
While every player graciously accepted a request for a photo-shoot, some outstanding images from the day which will linger such as a hot and exhausted Pieter-Steff du Toit refusing to enter the changerooms until the last supporter's request was met; Sikhumbuzo Notshe doing the same, a legion of Wynberg Boys Junior and High School past and present pupils lining up to share the moment with the esteemed Old Boy; and a touching moment when Scarra Ntubeni went over to the stands for a photograph with an elderly fan.
Indeed when the Stormers participate in Sunday's Superhero Double Header they will truly be Superheroes to many who attended the day at Constantia.