DHL Stormers captain Steven Kitshoff will be leaving Cape Town at the end of the season and is as fired up as anyone to make the Vodacom United Rugby Championship quarterfinal at DHL Stadium on Saturday a memorable occasion.
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The conclusion of the 2022/23 season will bring an end to Kitshoff’s current run at the DHL Stormers as he is set to join Irish club Ulster from the start of the 2023/24 campaign.
The veteran loosehead has his eyes firmly fixed on helping the defending champions retain the title and the prospect of going back-to-back has Kitshoff fired up for the start of the playoffs.
“We have a real opportunity and if we get through the quarterfinals, there’s possibly two away games we need to travel to Ireland,” says Kitshoff. “Anything can happen in playoff games, it’s the team that’s most desperate on the day, the bounce of the ball, getting the ref’s calls in your favour.
“It will be a massive motivator and the team is as prepared as can be. We are really looking forward to getting three big victories and going back-to-back. That’s the goal, for the DHL Stormers and myself personally, to win back-to-back trophies.”
The playoff run gets underway on Saturday afternoon with a rematch of last season’s final at DHL Stadium. The very real possibility of this North-South derby in front of the DHL Stormers faithful being his last appearance at home has added fuel to Kitshoff’s tank.
“It is a huge game for me personally,” he says. “It might be my last game for a while at DHL Stadium and in a DHL Stormers jersey – you never know what the future holds.
“One of the things I am going to miss most is the atmosphere that the faithful bring every weekend, the number of people that come and support the team on a Friday or Saturday afternoon.
“I will miss the team, playing in the blue and white hoops, the management, players, the support staff, everything that goes around DHL Western Province, the rich culture and town. I am definitely going to miss Cape Town, it has a special place in my heart.
“Playing for the DHL Stormers is the best decision I could have ever made as a young rugby lad, and playing in the North-South derby in a playoff, it’s extremely personal.
“It’s games like these that you look forward to as a kid growing up. When you get to these moments, you live for them.
“I’m as energised as can be and looking forward to this weekend. I know there’s a lot of work to be done, especially those 80 minutes on the field, but I will give it everything and try to make the team as proud as possible in front of the faithful.”
From Rugby Championship deciders to World Cup finals, Kitshoff has been involved in plenty of big games throughout his storied career.
He explains what the DHL Stormers need to do this week to make sure they are fully prepared for the upcoming quarterfinal.
“Mentally you have to be the sharpest. The hard work has been done throughout the year. Getting yourself into a position where you are playing in a home quarterfinal takes a lot of hard work, sacrifice, trying to fix all the kinks in the game and build momentum.
“This weekend will be all about how well we can implement our plan and how well we can execute the things we do well as a team. It’s not about diving too deep on the small things, but trying to get as mentally prepared as possible.”