It will take a lot of character, but the Investec Stormers have a chance of clinching their first-ever Super 12 final berth when they tackle the Crusaders in Christchurch’s Jade Stadium tomorrow morning (09:35 SA time).
The Stormers have recovered nicely from the arduous trip back to Christchurch and are keenly looking forward to the game.
There were initial injury fears over tighthead prop Eddie Andrews (knee) and fullback Werner Greeff (chest), but both have recovered. Stormers coach Gert Smal has kept faith with the side that beat the Sharks last Saturday to clinch their semifinal spot.
“It’s important to reward a good performance,” Smal said about his decision to stick with the winning recipe. The odds are, however, stacked heavily against the Stormers as they battle jetlag going into a match against the powerful New Zealand outfit.
The Crusaders have received a major boost with the news that All Black scrumhalf Justin Marshall has passed a fitness test and will be taking his place.
However, Smal is still quietly confident that his team has what it takes to crack a final spot. He was particularly impressed with the way Thursay’s training session went.
“It was a very constructive session. We concentrated on testing our defence lines and I’m happy with the way things went.”
The coach said the players are slowly but surely recovering from the effects of jetlag. “You can see how the players’ energy levels are coming back.”
The coach, however, said the substitutes would have a very important role to play in tomorrow’s game. “We could pull through last week because we’ve made the changes at the right times. I already told the reserves that they would have a critical role to play this week.
“The chances of all of them going on is good. And when it happens, they must make a difference.”
Teams for Jade Stadium:
Investec Stormers: Werner Greeff, Tonderai Chavhanga, Marius Joubert, De Wet Barry, Gus Theron, Gaffie du Toit, Bolla Conradie, Adri Badenhorst, Schalk Burger, Hendrik Gerber, Selborne Boome (capt), Quinton Davids, Eddie Andrews, Pieter Dixon, Daan Human. Replacements: David Britz, Pat Barnard, Willem Stoltz, Pierre Uys, Neil de Kock, Gavin Hume, Breyton Paulse.
Crusaders: 1.David Hewett, 2. Tone Kopelani, 3. Greg Somerville, 4. Brad Thorn, 5. Ross Filipo, 6. Reuben Thorne (Captain), 7. Richard McCaw, 8. Sam Broomhall, 9. Justin Marshall, 10. Cameron McIntyre, 11. Caleb Ralph, 12. Daniel Carter, 13. Aaron Mauger, 14. Marika Vunibaka, 15. Ben Blair. Replacements: 16. Corey Flynn, 17. Chris King, 18. Scott Hamilton, 19. Johnny Leo’o, 20. Jamie Nutbrown, 21. Andrew Mehrtens, 22. Casey Laulala