A lot has already been said and written ahead of this weekend’s Vodacom Super Rugby semifinal clash between the DHL Stormers and the Sharks, but – according to Stormers captain Jean de Villiers – the proof will be in the pudding come Saturday night.
The DHL Stormers, South African Conference winners for the second year in a row, will host the Sharks at Newlands on Saturday (kick-off 5.05pm) in what promises to be a memorable encounter.
With a home final up for grabs – against either the Chiefs or the Crusaders – the Stormers hardly need extra motivation, but captain De Villiers has warned against any complacency.
“The key is not to think about the next step,” warned De Villiers after Wednesday’s team announcement at Newlands. “The key is to concentrate on what we need to do this weekend, the process of getting a good result and focusing on the mini-victories within the big battle.
“I think you will make a massive mistake if you start thinking about next week already because obviously if you don’t pitch up this week then there is no next week.”
The DHL Stormers, after topping the overall Super Rugby log after the league phase, sat out last week’s first round of play-off matches which saw the Sharks travel to Brisbane to take on the Reds.
As we all know, the Sharks recorded a stunning 30-17 win over the 2011 champions, setting up this all-SA derby at Newlands.
“We have had a week off from playing even though we did train and I think psychologically, mentally and physically the guys are ready,” said De Villiers, when asked about the so-called ‘travel-bug’ facing the Sharks.
“When you get to this stage of the competition you overcome anything that might make you not play well. Even though they have had to travel the motivation is there, you are at the business-end of the competition and you are playing to win the trophy.
“I feel that the preparation is totally different from last year, I think we are in a much better space than we were last year,” added De Villiers, referring to two previous home semifinals for the Stormers – in 2010 and 2011.
“We’re hoping for a better start this time around and that would mean learning from the mistakes that we’ve made in the past. Hopefully we know how to play finals rugby now and I suppose the only time we will know if we have is by seven o’clock on Saturday.”
Aside from their captain calling the shots in the Springbok-laden Stormers backline, the home side will rely heavily on the boot of flyhalf Peter Grant who has already scored an impressive 130 points this season – three of them coming via a last-minute winning penalty goal the last time these two teams met in Cape Town.
“Peter Grant in my view is probably our best player this year, he has been fantastic, he has won us games like the one against the Sharks (at Newlands) when he kicked that penalty,” said the Stormers and Springbok skipper.
On the topic of Grant, Stormers coach Allister Coetzee added: “Peter has got to play the way he has been playing for the Stormers, and by fulfilling his role he is making a statement in any case [in terms of Springbok selection].
“He has just got to continue like that and keep marshalling and giving us direction and keep knocking them over when the opposition get penalised. Defensively he has always been strong and that is what we expect Peter to do.”
Looking ahead to this weekend’s semifinal, the DHL Stormers coach heaped praise on his entire team and also pointed to their unbeaten record in Cape Town in 2012.
“It will be one massive team effort from our side,” said Coetzee. “We are playing at Newlands, we haven’t lost here (at Newlands) this year which is something we really regard as special.”