Vodacom Stormers assistant coach Gary Gold expects the Crusaders to provide a searching test for his side’s abilitities when the two meet in a Vodacom Super 14 match in Christchurch on Saturday.
Gold said he was happy with the way the preparation went since their arrival in Christchurch last Friday.
“It’s been pretty good. Obviously it was a long haul trip getting here but we had a bye last weekend and that counts in our favour. It started raining here on Saturday and everyday since then, but the preparation went well and yes, we are quite excited to play against the Crusaders.
“Thye are on a high at the moment and after beating the Waratahs in their last game. They are full of confidence,so we realise and are under no illusions that it will be a tough challenge. We are quite excited about the tour and will try and make a difference, so we are excited and yes, the preparation went well.”
The Stormers have been training and playing in temperatures that sometimes reached the mid 30’s and on Saturday they can expect cold and even wet conditions. Gold said he was not too concerned that the change in climate would affect the players adversely.
“I am not really worried about that. We had a couple of really cold days over here and other than that we have taken into account that it may rain at the weekend, but no, we are well prepared for that. We realise that we have to spend time in New Zealand and that it could involve a change to bad weather. It has been a shock to the system though coming from our hot weather to single digit weather.”
The forwards boffin said he was happy that the young Wicus Blaauw would continue in the rich vein of form he has displayed since starting in place of the then injured JD Moller at prop.
“Yes, but that is the way that life works. In rugby you get a chance and if you take it you will get rewarded. JD was away with injury and Wicus has taken his chance with both hands. He has a fantastic workrate and did well in the games he played.
“JD is now on his way back and hasn’t played for a couple of weeks, so I think it is the right thing to do (to continue with Blaauw). . We want to encourage the guys to take the opportunity and that is how other young guys also break through. Wicus scrummed well and he was great around the park.
“It is actually a lovely situation for us with Wicus there and JD and also Schalk Ferreira pushing him. This is also a fantastic test for JD’s character and attitude and a nice little opportunity for JD to try and drive himself even further.”
The Stormers acknowledge the loss of Andries Bekker – who is replaced by AJ Venter – was a huge blow. “It is a different dimention. We lose a world class 5 lock. Andries is a very different player to AJ but what you lose on the swing you gain on the roundabout.
“AJ brings us fantastic experience and it is ironic that without Andries there we had to work harder on our lineout play. We are losing the biggest lock in world rugby but it is fantastic that we have AJ to fall back onto, a guy who nearly played 50 Test matches and Super rugby finals. We have been able to replace Andries with another leader.
“He is calm under pressure and played ten times before in Christchurch, let alone the other places he visited. He is a vastly experienced individual.”
Gold said beating the Crusaders would be tough and he regards the opposition as a team of world quality. “They are unbelievable and a class outfit, even without Richie McCaw. Casey Laulau is back and that will put more pressure on us.
“They are going to have a lot of confidence and they are playing at home. They went to Sidney and beat the Waratahs who were finalists last year so their self-belief is back. They are a world class side and they will not be easy to beat.”
Vodacom Stormers: Percy Montgomery; Gcobani Bobo, Jean De Villiers (captain), Peter Grant, Sireli Naqelevuki; Willem De Waal, Ricky Januarie; Luke Watson, Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger, AJ Venter, Adriaan Fondse, Brian Mujati, Schalk Brits and Wicus Blaauw.
Replacements: Tiaan Liebenberg, JD Moller, Hilton Lobberts, Francois Louw, Dewaldt Duvenage, Dylan des Fountain, Conrad Jantjes.
Kick-off is at 8.35am