Following a week’s rest whilst the Vodacom Super Rugby Qualifiers played out, the DHL Stormers are facing a huge challenge in the form of the Crusaders this Saturday at DHL Newlands.
The last time these two teams faced each other, the team from New Zealand came out victors in a tense game in Cape Town. Coach Allister Coetzee knows that the semi-final will be no different in its difficulty and intensity. “The Crusaders have class all over the pitch and we know the huge challenge that they pose. Our physical intensity will have to be massive for the full 80 minutes if we want to come out with a positive result.
“It will be vital for us to be accurate and to make better decisions than the last time we played them. We had chances to put them away and we didn’t, so we have focused on our decision making ahead of the game.”
With playoff clashes known to be tighter affairs, Coetzee has brought experienced full back Conrad Jantjes back into the starting team to add his defensive qualities in the backline. The change also sees Juan de Jongh move to the bench, alongside the returning Schalk Brits. Nick Koster is the other major switch, coming in for the injured Duane Vermeulen.
With the pressure on for both teams, the coach is expecting to see more mistakes made in front of a capacity DHL Newlands crowd.
“Errors are made in every game, but with the huge pressure on the players this Saturday it would be natural if more mistakes are made. That being said, the team has been preparing for this moment for seven months and this coupled with our experience of these types of games over the last few years will help us to ensure that we maintain our accuracy.
“The team is in a good space at the moment. The off week has helped to keep the boys mentally fresh and to get rid of some of the niggles. We understand there is lots of pressure at home, but it is for us to embrace the situation and show everyone what this team is capable of.”
Early weather predictions indicate that there is a possibility of rain during Saturday’s clash. Captain Schalk Burger, however is not too concerned about playing in the wet. He said: “We will just have to play the conditions if it rains. It will be the same for both sides no matter what. It is often difficult to keep the ball through phases, so we will have to play the game accordingly. Hopefully it will be nice weather, so we can play attractive rugby and put up a good spectacle for the fans.”
With the talking over, the team is now fully focused on Saturday and the goal of getting to another Vodacom Super Rugby final.
DHL Stormers: Conrad Jantjies, Gio Aplon, Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Peter Grant, Dewaldt Duvenage, Nick Koster, Francois Louw, Schalk Burger (capt), Andries Bekker, Rynhardt Elstadt, Brok Harris, Tiaan Liebenberg, Wicus Blaauw. Replacements: Deon Fourie, Steven Kitshoff, Anton van Zyl, Schalk Brits, Louis Schreuder, Juan de Jongh, Johann Sadie.