He might have been playing Vodacom Super Rugby since 2005, but experienced DHL Stormers centre Jean de Villiers still has a feeling of excitement ahead of tomorrow’s season-opening clash against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.
De Villiers will win his 83rd cap for the Stormers, having also played 84 Tests for the Springboks since 2002, but he admitted this week: “I’ve been playing for a while now, but every time you get to this time of the season, the start, you do get excited – about what’s lying ahead in the season.
“We know it’s a tough start for us, but you could see the change in mood at training these past few days… the guys are upbeat and looking forward to Friday.”
The Men from the Cape have won in Pretoria on their previous two Super Rugby visits – by 19-14 in 2012 and 23-13 in 2011 – but, according to their captain (who is leading the team in the absence of Schalk Burger), they will be resting on their laurels.
Said De Villiers: “I think our attitude towards playing away from home has changed a helluva lot – if you look at our track record (away from home) over the past four/five years it’s been really good. If anything, we’ve probably disappointed in a few crucial home games.
“But, no matter what, Loftus will always be a big challenge for any team going there,” warned the Bok skipper.
“There’s a lot that counts against you when you go out there – the altitude… the crowd… and they’re a quality side. But to win this competition, and I know it’s very early to start talking about that, you need to beat the best and there’s not much tougher than playing the Bulls at Loftus!”
There are numerous factors at play when it comes to playing away. In Pretoria, for instance, there is the crowd factor – as De Villiers mentioned above – but also the small matter of playing at altitude.
De Villiers, however, is confident that his charges will take it all in their stride – so to speak.
“I think we’ve had a good off-season and pre-season with a lot of running. Yes, it’s different actually playing up there, but playing at night will help with that and when you’re out there, on the field, adrenalin tends to take over you don’t really think about that,” he said. “I think we’re also fortunate to have a quality bench at our disposal and hopefully they can make a massive impact too.”
The Stormers played in two warm-up matches this month – against the Cheetahs and the Boland Cavaliers – but their true test will come during the 2013 Vodacom Super Rugby season as the 2011 and 2012 SA Conference Winners look to take it one step further this year.
De Villiers concluded: “All 15 sides have had a good pre-season and they’re all confident – everyone will be saying the same as nobody has played a game yet.
“The Bulls will be just as psyched as we are and they’ll come out firing too. Both teams have a lot to play for and I think it (all) makes for a great game on Friday.”
Friday’s match will kick-off at 19h10 and will be televised live on SuperSport. CLICK HERE for the DHL Stormers line-up.