Bulls wing Stravino Jacobs was quoted last week as saying “most of the guys at the Stormers disappear quickly”.
At 21, these are the words of a promising young rugby player who was schooled in the Mother City but decided to further his career up north – at the Bulls.
Before playing in the north-south derby, which the Bulls won 20-16 at Cape Town Stadium last Saturday, Jacobs told IOL: “My family, we were all Stormers.
“I was at Paarl Gym, and coach Pieter [Rossouw’s] brother, coach Chris, is at the
Bulls and he asked me to make a choice between the Bulls and the Stormers.
“So I told him I would rather choose to play at the Bulls, because most of the guys at the Stormers disappear quickly – they will play, but then they don’t get another opportunity.”
I’m sure his words would have stung every single wannabe professional player in the Cape.
But, somehow, fans of the Stormers would have been comforted by the fact that they have a “Vision 2023/24”.
As WP chairman Ebrahim Rasool explained in April: “A month or two ago, the coach [John Dobson] and I had a great discussion about how do we plan for the future of Western Province Rugby? We emerged out of that discussion with what we call Vision 23/24.
“And we made a deal – we basically said to the coach ‘you get the players you want to’ and we will budget for Vision 23/24.
“And then we said in return we want, amongst others, to be Currie Cup champions in this period, we want to be in the playoffs of the Pro16 or whatever international competition.
“We were so ambitious to say that we want to be able to say that 50 to 60 percent of the Springbok squad that goes to France 2023 should be from this region and we set about planning for that.”
From the sidelines, that sort of thing is do-able only if you hold on to your best talent and invest wisely.
Like Jake White said after the win over the Stormers: “I looked at our squad during warm-up today and there about 10 or 12 players who come from the Western Cape. “Embrose [Papier], Chris Smith, who was at Sacs, Zak [Burger] and Stravino [Jacobs] and the list goes on… Nizaam Carr, Grobbies [Johan Grobbelaar] and those guys.
“This is a head office of South African rugby, the Western Cape area... I am very happy that we can come to the Cape from the north and get a win under the belt.”
That would have left Cape fans with a sense of comfort, knowing we have the talent and according to Rasool we will keep hold of our best stars.
And then on Tuesday the Stormers announced that former World Junior Player of the Year Juarno Augustus, 23, will leave for Northampton Saints in England and, wait for it… “intends to return to his home union in 2023 with even more to offer”.
Is the vision not to build towards 2023/24?
This, with the union already having lost Sikhumbuzo Notshe at No.8 to the Sharks, captain Siya Kolisi to the same team, youngster Cobus Wiese to Sale Sharks not too long while they are yet to tie down the world’s best player Pieter-Steph du Toit, whose deal expires in October.
All the while, rumours of Bongi Mbonambi joining the Sharks won’t go away.
As White rightly said, the Western Cape is the head office of rugby in South Africa and there will, in all likelihood, be new superstars stepping up.
But money talks in this game, not words. You just have to look at the Rainbow Cup SA log to see evidence of this.
I don’t recall the table-topping Sharks or the Bulls, who are also unbeaten, talking about a vision. They showed us.
The Bulls went on a wild shopping spree and signed whoever they needed to win the Currie Cup and Super Rugby Unlocked competitions.
The Sharks are doing the same thing with Roc Nation as their partners.
As for the Stormers and Western Province, who could have had the same deal that the Sharks have with MVM Holdings, these fat cats are obviously just thinking: “What a talented bunch they are. If ever we need a player, we’ll just got there.”
Look, I’m not one to complain about the admin side of rugby – I found out long ago that not all of the people in charge of the game are in it for the oval ball.
But I’m not here to win a popularity contest either, so if there is a leak in the system it’s my job to highlight it, so it can be fixed.
And today I want to see that “Vision” Mr Rasool spoke of.
While the Sharks and Bulls have bought players and equipped their coaches with the “tools” to do their job, the Stormers have been shipping out big names with only Marvin Orie coming in thus far.
If they have plans to bring in stars, now would be a good time to either announce them or to drop some hints that so-and-so is coming. Fans need some excitement.