DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee lashed out at the media on Saturday when asked about the out-of-form Bryan Habana.
Cape Town – If an unusually animated head coach Allister Coetzee has his way, misfiring Springbok wing Bryan Habana will be firmly at his customary post when the Stormers tackle arch-rivals the Bulls in a Super Rugby encounter in Pretoria next Saturday.
Habana, once a darling of Loftus, again seemed out of kilter as the Stormers nevertheless showed enough defensive acumen and resolve to hold off the Highlanders 18-6 at Newlands on Friday night and hand the New Zealanders their first defeat of the campaign.
After three matches on home turf, the traditionally crowd-pleasing Stormers remain unbeaten, although their efforts thus far in 2011 have been mysteriously marked by an inability to cross the chalk – their try tally remains glued stubbornly to one, Pieter Louw’s pushover job against the Lions in the opening match.
Now they head into combat against the Bulls, humbled by home defeat to the very same Highlanders last week but presumably well rested as this is a bye weekend for the defending champions.
Seeing the normally affable Coetzee get hot under the collar is about as rare as a branch of Vida e Caffe opening its doors in Orania – I suspect the good folk there are comfortable with their boeretroos? – so the post-match press conference was a bit of a collector’s item in that regard.
For whatever reason, there was an insufferable wait for the respective coaches and captains to do their media thing at Newlands, and the complimentary bar service for the hacks was a predictably popular tranquiliser.
So when one well-loved, particularly gravel-voiced scribe finally got his chance to raise the suggestion – not totally unreasonably, you might argue – that maybe a “four-try day” for Habana in the ranks of the Western Province Vodacom Cup side would not be the worst restorative measure in the world, he got unusually short shrift from Coetzee.
Bear in mind that in a quirky selection strategy thus far in the season, the Stormers have not been shy to banish relatively staple personnel from last year’s Super 14 – when they had reached the final – like Wicus Blaauw and Adriaan Fondse to the blue and white hoops.
But the coach was having none of it, it seemed, in terms of Habana: “In my book he’s (still) doing his job. He’s got a helluva workrate … he threw one intercept pass and some people went ‘ooh, there goes Bryan again’.
“Everyone else makes mistakes. And let me repeat myself: if he does 20 things and gets one wrong, or maybe even five, I’ll be happy, instead of him only doing only five things on the day and getting three wrong.
“The players don’t play for stats … or to keep the media happy. They are there to express themselves and if they make errors it’s simply part of the game.
“We operate as a team at the Stormers, so that wasn’t Bryan’s intercept; it was a team bad pass and they fixed it as a team, preventing any try possibility.”
At this point the already-mentioned scribe, doggedly determined to labour the Habana under-achievement topic, drawled: “As you are well aware I’m a big Bryan Habana fan, but …”
And Coetzee, sharp as a porcupine quill, uncharacteristically interjected: “No, it doesn’t seem like that … you guys are on Bryan’s case.
“I want to ask you: who is the next wing who could come in? No, no, no … I’m telling you I’m very happy with Bryan’s performance, I’m happy with his work-rate.”
In slightly less tempestuous moments during the briefing, Coetzee did confirm that regular captain Schalk Burger and experienced lock Anton van Zyl were still not likely to be in the frame to face the Bulls next Saturday (19:10 kick-off).
“Schalk will be touch and go, to be honest, for this weekend. At least you could see Jaque (Fourie) is 100 percent again, although Worms (Van Zyl) is also not ready quite yet.
But he believed props CJ van der Linde and Brok Harris (the latter a late withdrawal from the run-on team against the Highlanders) would both be contenders.
Springbok Van der Linde, who played in his more favoured No 3 jersey this time, had hobbled off in the second half on Friday – “just a bit of a haematoma” — as did late-inclusion loosehead JC Kritzinger, who may have done fresh, significant damage to a problematic knee.
It led to uncontested scrums in the last quarter against the Highlanders.