The Investec Stormers will be at a distinct disadvantage when they tackle the Crusaders on Saturday in Christchurch, New Zealand in the first of the two Super 12 semifinals.
The Stormers match will kick off at 09:30 SA time. In the second semi, at 11:30 (SA time), the Brumbies will host the Chiefs in Canberra.
The Stormers’ tough travel schedule over the last six weeks is the reason why not many punters would put their money on the Cape Town-based side for a win on Saturday. And the travel statistics support their argument.
The Stormers had to travel twice as far as their opponents on Saturday over the past four weeks and more than five times the distance the Brumbies have travelled.
If one took the respective semifinalists’ journeys as the crow would make them, the Brumbies will have travelled something like 5,000 km over the last four weeks, the Crusaders 12,400 km, the Chiefs 14,500 km and the Investec Stormers 26,300.
The last five weeks’ travel schedule for the semifinal sides looks like this:
Brumbies: Bye, Sydney, home, Hamilton + home
Chiefs: Durban, home, home, home + Canberra
Crusaders: Johannesburg, home, home, Wellington + home
Stormers: Auckland, Hamilton, Christchurch, Durban + Christchurch.
Gert Smal’s side arrived back from the tough New Zealand and Australian leg of their Super 12 campaign only last week and then had to travel to Durban on Friday for their last league match. On Sunday at 18:10 they departed for Christchurch again.
This means they had to embark on the tiring flight across twenty time zones twice within seven days. New Zealand is ten hours ahead of South Africa and sports scientists have calculated that the ideal recovery time for jetlag is a day for every hour’s difference.
Already on Saturday the Stormers showed signs of fatigue, but Smal said they would manage the effects of jetlag and fatigue this week. The players will get the first day off to recover and rest and more emphasis would be put on mental preparation.
“I could see the fatigue at halftime against the Sharks. Playing the game out showed the character of the team. The guys were smashed. We brought fresh legs on at the right time.
“Greg (Hechter, fitness and conditioning coach) provide me with feedback all the time,” said Smal. He added that if they say it is impossible, they might as well stay at home.