Scrumhalves Neil de Kock and Bolla Conradie are keen to make their respective 50th games for the Vodacom Stormers a memorable occasion.
The two Springboks will reach that milestone on Saturday when the Stormers tackle the Bulls in their last Vodacom Super 14 match of the season at Newlands.
De Kock will start the match, with Conradie on the bench. De Kock made his Stormes debut in 2001 against the Waratahs, while Conradie played his first match a year later, against the Sharks.
Both have been in fine form this season and coach Kobus van der Merwe is sure to make good use of both his nr 9s on Saturday.
The two are looking forward to the prospect of earning a 50th Stormers cap. “I am very excited,” enthused De Kock.
“It is a special milestone for me and it is just fitting – although some people think it is ironic – that Bolla reaches 50 on the same day. It is an indication of the competition we’ve been giving each other over the years.”
The 28-year-old De Kock says the fact that he reaches his half-century at Newlands makes the occasion even more special.
“It is always nice to run out at Newlands and it is a really big game as well – the Bulls at home. It is a local derby and the Newlands crowd is always fantastic. It makes it a bit more special to be playing your 50th in front of the home crowd at Newlands.”
Conradie agreed: “Yes, it is quite an achievement. It always had been one of my goals to play 50 games for the Stormers, a team that is recognized as an excited brand throughout the rugby world. And to reach the milestone at Newlands is special.”
He said he is glad that his long time rival and friend, De Kock, will share the occasion with him. “I’ve known Neil since our high school days and we have been playing against each other and together for a long time.
“We are friends and if he starts, I support him and vice versa. I will shake his hand before the match.”
De Kock said he had many good memories of playing for the Stormers. “If I must single out specific games as highlights, there are a few games that come to mind.
“The one against the Blues in Auckland, when we convincingly beat them, is one. The match against the Crusaders a couple of weeks ago is one that I cherish, as well as the win against the Waratahs in Sydney.
“In that game Bolla made a pass to me and I went on to score. I was playing at the wing in that game.”
Conradie said he regards his debut against the Sharks as a highlight in his Stormers career. “The game against the Waratahs where we were behind 21-0 and fought back to win also stands out, as does the one against the Crusaders two weeks ago.”
Both players know the Bulls are coming for a win and would not treat them kindly because of the occasion. And the horror 75-14 defeat in last year’s corresponding clash at Loftus is still a sore point.
“That defeat was a big blow for us,” said Conradie. “But I think this Saturday would be a different story. We won’t be emotional just because Neil and I are playing our 50th game.
“We lost heavily at Loftus last year and that was one of the low points of my career – to lose that heavily in a Stormers jersey. We know it is going to be hard as they need 5 points and hope the Brumbies lose to qualify. It will be a cracker.”
De Kock said one cannot rewrite history and that defeat will be with the Stormers for some time to come still.
“But the beauty of sport is that you get a chance to go out there and prove your worth again as an individual and as a team. The Bulls are a class outfit and they are the form team of the last few seasons, so it is going to be a helluva tough game.
“We would have to be switched on mentally as well as physically to get a win. It will be a tough game with no favours asked or given either way.”