Schalk Burger believes the Vodacom Stormers are in for a tough duel with the Hurricanes when they meet in a Vodacom Super 14 match at Newlands on Saturday.
The Hurricanes unexpectedly lost to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last Saturday and they will be looking for a good performance to prove to their detractors that performance was just a blip on the radar.
Burger, who led the Stormers to an impressive 33-0 victory over the Highlanders last Saturday, expects a backlash. “The Canes are a quality side and they’ve got strengths everywhere, so it’s tough to play them.
“They’re pretty tough up front. They have excellent loose forwards and they’ve got quite a lot of striking power in the backs. They have big physical backs and a couple of very experienced guys as well, they’re a championship side.
“They are a team that’s been in the top five on numerous occasions, so it’s definitely going to be a challenge for us.”
Burger says things are falling into place nicely for his side, who are sitting pretty amongst the top four at this stage of the competition.
“We’ve put in a lot of hard work. We’re starting to understand where we want to be and what style of rugby we want to play. But in this competition it changes so quickly… last week there was a lot of pressure on us and this week we haven’t got that much pressure on us.
“Every weekend is a big game and this one is no different.”
The flank said defence is important to the team and described it as a confidence builder. “There’s unbelievable confidence within the guys in our defence systems. But in saying that we’ve got a different challenge again this week, they’ve got game-breakers all over the show.
“Our defence has been good, it’s been the strongest part of our game and we’ve based our game around it, so hopefully this weekend it will stand up.”
He added that defence is not a perfect science. “You talk things through and you’ve got a plan, but on the day you’ve got to make a split second decision. Those two times (against the Highlanders) we pretty much stuffed it up and I was chasing shadows, luckily we didn’t concede tries.
“This weekend against the Hurricanes you’re going to be stepped. I think the loosehead prop can step me as well. No doubt we’ll make a few defensive errors but hopefully we can look after each other and smother the threat.”
Teams for Newlands:
Vodacom Stormers: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Sireli Naqelevuki, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Schalk Burger (captain), 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Anton van Zyl, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Wicus Blaauw.
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 JC Kritzinger, 18 De Kock Steenkamp, 19 Pieter Louw, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Lionel Cronjé, 22 Gio Aplon. <> Hurricanes: 15 Cory Jane, 14 Tamati Ellison, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 David Smith, 10 Willie Ripia, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Rodney So’oialo, 7 Scott Waldrom, 6 Victor Vito, 5 Michael Paterson, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Andrew Hore (captain), 1 Jacob Ellison.
Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 John Schwalger, 18 Jeremy Thrush, 19 Karl Lowe, 20 Tyson Keats, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Alapati Leiua.
Kick-off: 19:10 Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Stuart Berry (South Africa), Marc van Zyl (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)