Cape Town – Stormers captain Siya Kolisi says the side is prepared to “win ugly” in their efforts to secure a first-ever Super Rugby crown in 2020.
That mentality hasn’t always been part of the fabric at Newlands, particularly under the leadership of former coach Robbie Fleck who was clear in his efforts to play an expansive, eye-catching brand of rugby during his years in charge from 2016-2019.
After the 2015 Rugby World Cup, where the Springboks finished third after losing their semi-final to eventual champions New Zealand, there was a general feeling in South African rugby circles that the game needed to evolve.
Skill with ball in hand and an ability to play attacking, running rugby were identified as the key areas where the Springboks could not match the All Blacks, and the decision was taken among some of the Super Rugby franchises to set about closing the gap.
At the Stormers under Fleck, Mondays were even referred to as “Kiwi day” where offloading was prioritised.
Even the Bulls up in Pretoria, known for their forward-driven style, began throwing the ball around from deep while Allister Coetzee began his tenure as Springbok coach full of promises to play entertaining rugby.
That free-spirited approach is unlikely to find its way through the Newlands gates this year, though, as new coach John Dobson sets about creating a winning culture.
“For the last couple of years, we’ve been known as a team that’s got the flare,” Kolisi told media on Monday.
“We’ve got exciting backs, but a lot of our pack has been in the Springbok squad, so I think the best thing is to find that mix.
“The most important thing is that we win games … it doesn’t matter how ugly it is. We obviously want to play rugby that people want to watch, but we want to be smart about it at the same time. We’re not going to force stuff.
“At the end of the day, you can play the most exciting rugby but if you’re not winning games then that’s not going to bring people back to Newlands.”
It would be foolish, of course, for the Stormers to ignore the power of their pack given how many victorious Boks they have returning from the World Cup.
Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi and Steven Kitshoff were all in the matchday 23 for the November 2 final against England.
“The experience, the way Siya and those guys played at the World Cup and the sheer numbers of who has come back from the forwards means that we have to achieve forward dominance,” Dobson said.
“We have to use the pack that we’ve got to generate momentum for the amazingly talented backs that we have. It’s not something from NASA.
“Siya, for example, is x-factor and is a superb carrier of the rugby ball and it would be stupid to deprive him of that skill and just make him chase kicks or hit 40 breakdowns.
“We cannot spurn the power of the personnel we have up front, so it’s going to be a hybrid game.”