North/south derby: Sneaky Stormers supporters have a role to play

rugby29 February 2024 08:48| © SuperSport
By:Gavin Rich
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© Gallo Images

All the indications are that Loftus will be sold out for Saturday’s big Vodacom United Rugby Championship derby, but that doesn’t mean the DHL Stormers will be travelling into a completely hostile environment without a friend in sight. Okay, they may not be in sight, but they will be there, you just have to wait for the visitors to get some momentum in order to spot them.

There’s a good chance there will be more Stormers fans in the stadium than might be ascertained from a cursory glance that takes in the masses of spectators wearing the distinctive light blue of the Vodacom Bulls.

Stormers team manager Chippie Solomon once told me a story that summed up the angst that some fans of the Cape side might feel when they venture into the Bulls’ corral. A few years ago Solomon, at lunchtime on the day of a Stormers/Bulls game, had to meet someone he knew in the foyer of the team’s Pretoria hotel to hand over a signed Stormers jersey.

Knowing his mate to be a big Stormers fan, he was somewhat surprised to see him wearing a Bulls shirt.

“I thought you were a Stormers supporter? What are you doing wearing a Bulls jumper?”

“Don’t worry,” came the response from the fan, “I am a Stormers supporter.”

And with that he pulled off his Bulls shirt to reveal a Stormers shirt beneath it.

“When you guys are doing well, I will take this one off and then I will parade my Stormers allegiances in full view.”

Sneaky. But the timidity of going to Loftus for a Cape fan who fears both the passion of the Bulls faithful and, not to underestimate it, the potential damage that can be wreaked by the Bulls team, may not be confined just to that one person of the long-serving Stormers manager’s acquaintance.


In 1998, with Alan Solomons as the Western Province coach in a Currie Cup competition which in those days was still played at full strength, the Cape team headed to Pretoria largely written off. They’d lost a couple of games to weaker teams and WP were assumed to be going through a bit of a crisis.

I was there that day to cover the game for the Weekend Argus and can well remember how partisan the crowd appeared to be before kick-off. The Bulls were doing well after a fairly long drought in the domestic competition and there was an air of anticipation among their fans. There was hardly a WP jersey in sight.

But that changed quite dramatically within a few minutes of the start of the game. It was the day that both Bob Skinstad and Breyton Paulse scored a hattrick of tries for the Streeptruie, and by halftime the game had already been won and lost. Loftus was a dazzle of colour, mostly WP colours. All the timid fans had been exploded out of their need for secrecy by the knowledge that this would be their team’s day and this was an occasion to laud it over the Bulls supporters.

It wasn’t just the points scoring that would have been enjoyed by the WP fans that day, there was also an instance where the two scrumhalves, the Bulls’ legend Joost van der Westhuizen and WP’s chirpy Dan van Zyl, got tangled up with each other and started pulling and shoving after a set piece.

Van Zyl got a big cheer from his team’s supporters when he pointed out the scoreboard to his opponent. WP were ahead by something like 26-3 at the time.


But it is easy to understand why the Cape fans sometimes choose not to be so loud when they head into the Bulls’ headquarters to support their team. Like now, the Stormers went to Pretoria in 2005 having not lost to the Bulls in a while. Indeed, also like now, they hadn’t lost to a fellow South African side in a while.

But in a game that was also Gert Smal’s last as coach, the Bulls ran riot, winning 75-14, and elicited a haranguing for the Stormers players and managerial staff of that time from the then WP director of rugby Nick Mallett that none of them have forgotten.

The point isn’t that it will happen again on Saturday, for it shouldn’t, but rather that it would have been completely understandable if Stormers fans spent that harrowing 80 minutes hiding their allegiance to a team that on the day was like a gathering of lambs led to the slaughter.


Listening to talented young up-and-coming hooker Andre-Hugo Venter speak this week though, it is important for Stormers fans to be loud and proud at Loftus even before they are assured that it is a day their team will front their opponents and won’t suffer a repeat of the 2005 massacre.

“It is always tough going to Loftus as there are different circumstances there and altitude also plays a role,” said Venter in looking ahead to the game.

“The crowd will be up for it but from past experience we know there will also be lots of Stormers fans present. We use those fans to motivate us. For us it plays a massive role seeing our fans in the crowd and it helps you go onto the field with a determination to put a smile on those people’s faces.”

So take it from the horse’s mouth, if you are a Stormers fan going to Loftus on Saturday you might be helping your team if you drop the sneakiness and display your colours before the kick-off rather than wait until your team is in the lead…