These next two weeks are really important to us in terms of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship, as we go from one end of the world to the other between hosting the Emirates Lions on Saturday and then travelling to Scotland to play Glasgow.
The cross-hemisphere demands of the competition add to the unique experience of playing summer rugby – the forecast has Cape Town at 28 degrees on Saturday, while Glasgow is in single digits and threatening to touch zero!
Zero is the number of home defeats we’ve suffered in 2022 and it would be nice to finish the year unbeaten at home, though records like these are a means to an end rather than an objective in themselves.
This game against the Emirates Lions is important to us. There are scars from 4 December last year, when they left Cape Town with a 37-19 win. More than that, in this competition, winning home games is non-negotiable and if we look where we are in terms of points in the SA Shield, this is a critical game for us.
There won’t be the same spicy build-up as there was last week for what was billed as a rematch of the Grand Final, and that’s probably because people expect us to beat the Emirates Lions, as they did in 2021…
They are now one of the most improved sides in the competition and have climbed into the top eight on the table. People talk about their record against SA teams, but the last time we played them at home they put 37 points on us.
Even though they went down 37-10 in Durban last week, the contest was much closer than the margin reflects. With less than 10 minutes to go, it was 25-10 with the Emirates Lions attacking – those two late tries from the Cell C Sharks took the game away.
The Emirates Lions’ set piece is good. Their scrum is tough and unmovable, pretty much one of the best in the competition. And Jordan Hendrikse is one of the best playmakers around, he’s going to be a star. He can make magic out of nothing and they do have it in their DNA to attack.
They made it very clear that they felt they weren’t physical enough on defence in Durban last week, so we won’t get that easy ride. And we won’t get another passage of play like we got against the Vodacom Bulls where we scored three tries in six minutes. It’s going to take a lot of work.
We’ve been trying to reduce the workload in training as much as we can because we don’t want to drain the guys mentally, so this week we started early and got out of there early.
We’ve got a tough January coming up. Nobody can pretend that Glasgow away, Ulster away, London Irish away and Clermont at home is an easy month, and that’s what makes it so important to back up the win over the Vodacom Bulls with one against the Emirates Lions.
The result would have helped but we got great feedback from people who had a really good experience at DHL Stadium last week.
I know it’s tricky on New Year’s Eve, but we need to build this culture of summer rugby in Cape Town and the team is counting on supporters to come and contribute to what we’re building.
I promise it will be entertaining and the more people, the better the vibe.
Our New Year’s resolution will again be to ‘Keep Cape Town smiling’ and the DHL Stormers will hold nothing back in making sure we deliver on that so that you’re beaming at the dawn of 2023.