All eyes will be on the big Vodacom Super 14 derby at Newlands between the Vodacom Stormers and the Cheetahs on Saturday.
Stormers captain Schalk Burger this week predicted that there won’t be much to choose between the two sides. The Stormers are in excellent form thus far, sitting second on the log, while the Cheetahs have also surprised with a few good showings thus far.
The Springbok flank said: “There’s always extra emotion in these games. We know each other very well and there’s always the question of Bok team-mates playing against each other.
“These derbies are always a bit more physical than a regular game and Free State have had a fantastic season so far, so it’s going to be tight this weekend.”
Coach Allister Coetzee is equally wary of the Cheetahs, who like their opponents on Saturday beat a star-studded Hurricanes side. “The Free State is a team that likes to get quick ball from the breakdown, so that they can use their speed in the wider channels.
“It’s going to be a challenge for us to be able to defend that, to make sure that they don’t get front foot ball, and the battle on the advantage line is going to be a tough one.”
Coetzee’s team has shown marked improvement in all facets of the game this season, but the coach believes they cannot be resting on their laurels. “We can improve in all areas. We haven’t put together a perfect game yet, but like I said last time as long as we keep improving in our execution and backing the systems, then I’m happy.
“If we emphasise and focus on our set piece then we’ll have ball, and if we make sure we defend their ball well, and stick to our kicking system and those little battles that we win, the result will take care of itself.”
The battle of the forwards is keenly awaited by lovers of the game. The resurgent Stormers pack has shown they are not in the powder-puff-category, while the Cheetahs will be out to prove their detractors wrong. Burger said the battle up-front will be fierce.
“The Cheetahs pride themselves on their driving lineouts and it’s one of their more dangerous weapons. Both packs pride themselves in that area, so it’ll be a good contest this week.”
Coetzee said derbies are always close, so penalties and discipline are going to be vital. “I’m pleased to see we conceded only 8 penalties against the Hurricanes and that’s one way of keeping the scoreboard intact.
“We’ve got to be as disciplined as we can this weekend and make sure we don’t give penalties away.
“In derbies it’s vitally important to kick your conversions and penalties, and in this game its about keeping the scoreboard ticking, and then you create a try and all of a sudden from 3,6,9 you go to 16 and that’s how you build pressure. It’s vital that we make sure the crucial penalties go over.
“I’m sure there’s a lot of emotion from the Cheetahs side. We respect the Cheetahs, they’re a good side, but we’ve got to put emotions aside and focus on where we want to be in this competition. We’ve got to do what we do best and forget about the periphery stuff.”
Burger said the players will be motivated enough in their last home game before a bye and then the overseas leg of their campaign. “It’s our last game and then we’ve got a bit of a bye.
“From a players’ perspective we want to end on a high and enjoy the off week. And if we win this game hopefully we can sleep in a bit next week and not get up and train early in the morning.
“From that perspective, the boys are really looking forward to it, and it’s the last home game and then we going on tour, so it’s pretty important to get a win.”
Stormers: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Schalk Burger (captain), 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Anton van Zyl, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Wicus Blaauw.
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 JC Kritzinger, 18 De Kock Steenkamp, 19 Pieter Louw, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Willem de Waal, 22 Sireli Naqelevuki.
Cheetahs: 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 Robert Ebersohn, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Jongi Nokwe, 10 Naas Olivier, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Frans Viljoen, 7 Juan Smith (captain), 6 Hendro Scholtz, 5 Waltie Vermeulen, 4 Nico Breedt, 3 WP Nel, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Wian du Preez.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Barend Pieterse, 19 Kabamba Floors, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Corné Uys, 22 Danwel Demas.
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Vinny Munro (New Zealand), Reuben Rossouw (South Africa)
TMO: Johann Meuwesen (South Africa)