Mental toughness holds the key to a good performance for the Vodacom Stormers when they tackle the Crusaders in a Super 14 match at Newlands on Saturday.
That is the view of Stormers coach Kobus van der Merwe. His team plays its first match at Newlands after returning from four games in Australia and New Zealand.
The Crusaders, even without Richie McCaw and stars such as Leon MacDonald and Daniel Carter on the bench, are still imposing opponents.
They had to sweat for a draw against the lowly Western Force last weekend and would want to atone for that below par performance.
“I don’t think we need to be reminded of the difficulty of this game, but we are keen to perform and I think if we prepare mentally well we’ll have a good chance.
“For me personally it’s a lot mental. The players don’t need any motivation to perform this weekend. We are playing the top team in the competition with a lot of All Blacks in their squad.”
The coach, however, said he was optimistic that the Stormers can get their act together after some disappointing performances at home.
“We are positive. We are keen to perform at home. We had a fairly successful tour. For the guys to be back home is great,” commented Van der Merwe.
“They are going to play in front of their home crowd and we want to do well against the top team. Last year the guys had a good first half and let it slipped in the second half.”
Van der Merwe said although they acknowledge that the Crusaders are a good side with very talented individuals, they would not focus on one player, but rather take care of their own game.
“For us it is more important to worry about our own game and keep enough pressure on them as a team. It is not just Dan Carter that makes that team; they are a well-balanced team.
“For us it is important how we play and how we put pressure on them. We just want to focus on our game and improve our game.”
He doesn’t think the Crusaders would make the mistake of underestimating the Stormers, especially not after last week’s result against the Force.
“There are no easy games in this game. The Force were very unlucky to lose that game. That just shows you have to be prepared for every game. There are no easy games. I don’t think they will be overconfident.
“They’ve obviously set themselves a target of finishing top of the log to set up a home final if they qualify. To do that they need to pick up as many points as possible on this leg of their tour, but we are not going to make it easy for them.
“We want to win this game. We are going to play positive rugby and hopefully the guys can achieve what we set out to do.
“We have analysed them and there are certain things we want to try. We have certain structures in the team that we play in, but there is also room for the guys to try certain things. This is one team you cannot make too many mistakes against.
“We will try to hang on to the possession and try not to concede too many turnovers. Hopefully we wont kick aimlessly against them, because they have the ability to keep the ball through many phases.”
Vodacom Stormers: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Rayno Benjamin, 13 Marius Joubert, 12 De Wet Barry (captain), 11 Jean de Villiers, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Neil de Kock, 8 Joe van Niekerk, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Luke Watson, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Ross Skeate, 3 Eddie Andrews, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 JD Moller.
Replacements: 16 Hanyani Shimange, 17 Neil Fullard, 18 Gerrie Britz, 19 Adri Badenhorst, 20 Bolla Conradie, 21 Naas Olivier, 22 Chumani Booi.
Crusaders: 15 Scott Hamilton, 14 Rico Gear, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Aaron Mauger, 11 Caleb Ralph, 10 Cameron McIntyre, 9 Kevin Senio, 8 Mose Tuiali’i, 7 Johnny Leo’o, 6 Reuben Thorne (captain), 5 Brad Mika, 4 Chris Jack, 3 Campbell Johnstone, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Greg Somerville.
Replacements: 16 Tone Kopelani, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Craig Clarke, 19 Tanerau Latimer, 20 Andrew Ellis, 21 Daniel Carter, 22 Leon MacDonald. Referee: James Leckie (Australia) Kick-off: 19:10.