Vodacom Stormers coach Rassie Erasmus warned his charges this week to brace themselves for another difficult day at the office on Saturday.
The Stormers and the Waratahs, respectively fourth and third on the points’ table, battle it out in a match that could yet prove crucial in determining who will be at home in the semi-finals.
And Erasmus, in his first season as coach, said it was nice to be involved in a top of the table clash. “Yes, definitely, it is a nice challenge for us especially when you consider at the beginning of the season we were not really contenders.
“When I say us I mean both teams. The Waratahs didn’t have a great season last year and the coach was a little bit under pressure. This season they came through tremendously.
“For us it’s the same thing. We weren’t really contenders in anybody’s view, so for us it’s a nice thing to say for at least some stage of the competition we were involved in a top of the table clash. It will be a nice challenge for both teams.”
Looking back to last week’s second-half performance against the Brumbies, Erasmus said this week they need to improve on their execution when try-scoring opportunities arise.
The former Cheeahs mentor said the Waratahs will provide a stiff challenge on Saturday, as they don’t have too many weaknesses. He lauded their ability to string phases together, their structured general play, good lineout and the improved scrum.
“They compete on your lineout ball and put pressure on your scrums. They also get enough ball to play that nice structured play. Most of the times to be successful you need 4, 5 or 6 game breakers in your side and they have that.
“Turner can really turn it on and so can Tiquri, Palu, Elsom, Phil Waugh, Burgess and Beale. So it’s a great challenge. If they get ball they have dangerous runners and they have the second best defensive record – the same as us – in the competition and that is why they are number two on the log.”
Erasmus believes the Waratahs wouldn’t dwell on last Saturday’s defeat to the Bulls for too long. “They been there before and I don’t think they will dwell too much on the Bulls game.
“There are few guys who played overseas for the first time and that makes a difference. If you look at their team you will see that a few guys played at Loftus for the first time.
“Even though it was not a sell-out it is an intimidating place to go to. But they’ve settled now. They had their first game overseas and are not playing at altitude but at sea level, so they will be more settled.”
Erasmus again reiterated that a bonus point is not a consideration for the team. “I’ll take a win with a penalty try, drop goal, anything… we just want to win the game.
“And the only way we can win that game is by winning the small battles on the field. I know it’s an old cliché coming from me, but u must get your lineout ball, you must be dominant in the tackle, protect your ruck ball and you must be on your kicking game.
“We must do our things right on the field and we just want to win the game. By doing all those things properly maybe we can win the game. We are not thinking about bonus points, but just about log points, so we are just trying to win the game.”