Investec Stormers captain Neil de Kock on Friday said the emotions surrounding the departing members of the squad would not cloud their focus in Saturday’s game against the Bulls.
The Stormers tackle the Bulls, who still have a chance to qualify for the semifinals of the Super 12 competition, at Loftus in Pretoria in their last league fixture.
De Kock, who had to sit on the bench for the last five games with Bolla Conradie occupying the number nine spot, said it was great to be back in the starting XV. “Yes, it is obviously great to be back on the field and be part of the starting lineup.
“And there can be no better game than the Bulls at Loftus to be making a return.”
The captain said the fact that it will be the last game for fullback Breyton Paulse, coaches Gert Smal and Carel du Plessis, physiotherapist Helen Millson and manager Thelo Wakefield will bring a lot of emotion to the game. Hooker Pieter Dixon, who will be watching from the pavilion, is also leaving the Stormers shortly.
“There will be quite a few farewells, but I am sure it would not reflect too much in our performance. The guys will be motivated for this game – we don’t need much more motivation than the Bulls.
“It would be nice to give those people who are leaving a great send-off, but we know it is the last game of the season and that we haven’t realized our potential. This is the last chance to do that.”
The Springbok said he believes the Bulls would be at full strength, despite the fact that many of their players spend a lot of time in bed this week due to a stomach ailment.
“They are a strong outfit and whoever will be in their 22-man squad will be 100% fit. They won’t send guys onto the field who are not fit, so I don’t see any weakness there.
“We planned and prepared for a full strength Bulls outfit, so their problems did not affect our preparation. It was said this week we have nothing to play for and that our season was a failure, but we still have a lot to play for.
“We want to do justice to our brand, we want to do justice to our coaches and we also want to do justice to ourselves. The individuals also have a lot to play for.”
De Kock said the Stormers expect a very physical encounter. “They are always physical upfront. They have been the form South African team over the past few weeks and they don’t want to slip up in the last week of the tournament.
“They are a helluva physical team and want to keep going on that roll. But we will obviously whatever we can to disrupt them.”
De Kock said he is not one for records and statistics, but added that it would be nice to build on their record of not having lost to a local team over the last three years. “It would be nice if we could make it four years in a row that we have beaten all the South African teams. However, that would not make us the South African champion team, as you are judged on a whole season and not on one game.
“We are aware of the fact that we need an 80-minute performance. We have played to our potential for 20 minutes here and 60 minutes there, but we haven’t put together a complete performance.
“The guys are motivated to do well and we are looking forward to the game.”
Teams for Loftus:
Investec Stormers: 15 Breyton Paulse, 14 Tonderai Chavhanga, 13 Jean de Villiers, 12 De Wet Barry, 11 Gus Theron, 10 Gaffie du Toit, 9 Neil de Kock (captain), 8 Joe van Niekerk, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Luke Watson, 5 Gerrie Britz, 4 Andries Bekker, 3 Faan Rautenbach, 2 Hanyani Shimange, 1 Eddie Andrews.
Replacements: 16 Lukas van Biljon, 17 Riaan Olckers, 18 Rob Linde, 19 David Hendriks, 20 Bolla Conradie, 21 Marius Joubert, 22 Tiger Mangweni.
Bulls: 15 Johan Roets, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JP Nel, 12 Ettienne Botha, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Anton Leonard (captain), 7 Pedrie Wannenburg, 6 Jacques Cronjé, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Richard Bands, 2 Gary Botha, 1 Kees Lensing.
Replacements (possibly): 16 Danie Coetzee, 17 Wessel Roux, 18 Danie Rossouw, 19 Warren Brosnihan, 20 Heini Adams, 21 Kennedy Tsimba, 22 Wynand Olivier.