Vodacom Stormers captain Schalk Burger expects nothing but a titanic clash when his team take on the Blues in Auckland in a Vodacom Super 14 match on Saturday.
The Blues beat the Bulls last weekend, while the Stormers came unstuck against the Western Force in Perth. The Stormers will be looking to make amends with a good win that will keep their semi-finals hopes alive.
Burger said it was very frustrating to give up their momentum with a loss last week. “Unfortunately we were pretty inaccurate in our performance and that cost us in the last minute – it was one of those games we could have won, but that’s behind us and we’re looking forward now.
“We had five opportunities and we didn’t take them, and against the Blues you don’t just have to worry about messing up your own opportunities, you have to score from them.”
The fiery flanker is acutely aware of the threats the dangerous Blues pose. “Our defence and physicality are the most improved parts of our game this season, in terms of fronting up.
“But the Blues competed well against the Bulls and if we don’t front up it’s going to be a helluva tough game – I think that’s where the game will be won or lost.
“I think the Blues will try and win that battle by keeping the ball in hand. It’s a pressure game and we will definitely have to up our intensity levels, but we’re looking forward to the challenge.
“We’ll have to front up in defence and nullify their big ball-carriers, but that’s easier said than done – we have to up our aggression in defence and attack.”
Fellow loose-forward Francois Louw said the players made too many errors last weekend against the Force and should turn it around 180 degrees this weekend.
“We didn’t pitch up for the game, and there were a lot of errors that are not a tendency of our game.”
He warned that set pieces will be crucial against the Blues and hinted that the dominant team there will be in a good position to triumph.
“The Blues are definitely a very physical side. They like to keep ball in hand. They don’t like to give away free possession, and set pieces will be crucial – they’ve got some big boys in their side and we’ll have to be up for this game.
“The Blues have a solid loose trio, and there are a couple of All Blacks in the team. Definitely it’s a game where you can measure your personal standards against top class players – every player just wants to improve in all aspects, if you can do that then you’re doing well.”
Blues: 15 Isaia Toeava, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Rene Ranger, 12 Benson Stanley, 11 Rudi Wulf, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Viliami Ma’afu, 7 Serge Lilo, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Anthony Boric, 4 Kurtis Haiu, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Charlie Faumuina. Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Tevita Mailau, 18 Filo Paulo, 19 Peter Saili, 20 Chris Smylie, 21 Luke McAlister, 22 Paul Williams.
Vodacom Stormers: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Sireli Naqelevuki, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 François Louw, 6 Schalk Burger (captain), 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Adriaan Fondse, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 JD Moller. Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Eusebio Guinazu, 18 Anton van Zyl, 19 Pieter Louw, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Willem de Waal, 22 Tim Whitehead.
Kick-off: 07:30 (SA time)
Referee: Stuart Dickinson
Assistant referees: Chris Pollock, Matthew Stanish
TMO: Glenn Newman