CAPE TOWN – Siya Kolisi may have been hobnobbing with royalty in the Monaco principality last week, but the Stormers captain’s thoughts were firmly focused with his struggling team in Cape Town.
Kolisi left the field in the first quarter of the Loftus mauling, and then had to leave his teammates for the prestigious Laureus World Sports Awards in Monaco at the beginning of last week.
The timing could not have been worse, for the Stormers needed their leader to provide direction after the 40-3 drubbing to the Bulls last weekend.
But at no point did Kolisi leave his team to their own devices, and the skipper could not be more proud of the way they responded to pulling off a nail-biting 19-17 victory over the Lions on Saturday at Newlands.
“I was speaking to the players, to coachie (Robbie Fleck). Because we both knew that was not us at Loftus. There was no ways a Stormers team could play like that. Win or lose, we just wanted to step up, because the coaching staff work really hard,” Kolisi said.
“It was a tough week for us. I can’t explain to you how tough it was as a group for us. We just had to believe.
“We were playing the team that was in the final for the last three years in a row. We had to make sure that (we) were on point.
“We looked at ourselves and we were honest. What I enjoyed the most was that everyone took ownership.
“The character that we showed, just to show each other what we mean to each other. That’s what we were going for in the second half.”
The Stormers were certainly much improved in the second stanza after an error-ridden first half on Saturday.
The home team simply conceded too many penalties, particularly at the breakdown, where the Lions duo of Malcolm Marx and Kwagga Smith were excellent for the visitors.
“The week before, we couldn’t get in the game. We were chasing the game all the way. Every time the Bulls had the ball, they scored,” Kolisi said.
“So, I think we were just over-eager. We wanted to get into the game as soon as possible. It caused a lot of the discipline problems.
“We came together in the second half, and stood off a bit of the rucks and started dominating the tackles, which made things a bit easier.”
Stormers coach Fleck echoed his skipper’s comments about the character and skill the team showed to pull off the victory deep into injury time.
“That’s what Siya spoke about: immense character. But we still had to play and retain possession. There had to be leadership on the field – to go back to the scrum and have a crack there.
“I felt that the boys were really on point. It was a completely different team when there was immense pressure to win,” Fleck said.
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“I felt that they made the right decisions to win. I felt the breakdown was intense, and we managed to maintain possession through good, clean ball.
“It shows that when we are all pulling in the same direction, we can beat some of the best teams in the competition.
“I mean, it’s been four years since we’ve beaten them (the Lions). So, we’ll take it. We’ll take it!”