DHL Stormers skipper Jean de Villiers believes Saturday’s Vodacom Super Rugby clash against the Kings is a vital game as his team continues to rebuild its lost pride.
The Stormers bounced back from a tough tour of New Zealand and Australia with a hard-fought 20-15 win over a Wallaby-laden Reds team last weekend.
And this Saturday the Men from the Cape will host Super Rugby newcomers, the Southern Kings (kick-off 17h05), in a crucial match at DHL Newlands ahead of the June international break.
“I think what we have seen throughout this competition this year is that any team can beat any other team, and that has made it really interesting,” said De Villiers.
“Even if you just look at our results – we have managed to beat the top teams and you still lose to teams that you are sort of expected to beat.”
The Stormers have indeed claimed big scalps this season – of the Chiefs, the Brumbies, the Sharks and the Reds – but De Villiers admitted: “We are still not happy with the position we are in on the log, and the only way you can improve that is by getting more points on the log and winning games.
“We spoke a lot last week about the pride of the jersey, and that is not totally restored yet. That’s a process that we need to proceed with and we are definitely not going to underestimate the Kings.
“I would rather see the glass as half-full, we have had a challenging year and obviously there will be injuries going forward but we can’t predict that, it will always be part of rugby, all we can do is select the strongest team possible every week and then perform.
“This game is vitally important for us. No matter what is happening at the end of the competition… it’s about winning this one and keeping the boat on track and that is all we are focusing on for now.”
Harsh weather is expected in Cape Town this weekend, but coach Allister Coetzee pointed out that the conditions would be the same for both sides out there.
“The rain is a leveller and it will come down to a quality set-piece and obviously a good kicking game (on the day),” said the Stormers boss. “We learnt big lessons against the Sharks in the Currie Cup last year – both league games played in the rain.”
Speaking about the challenge of facing the Kings in Cape Town – rain or shine – this weekend, Coetzee added: “We’re under no illusions – this is going to be a helluva tough game, it’s going to be ‘in the trenches’ stuff and we have got to pitch up this weekend. We need to play a smart kicking game and make sure we win that battle, but it starts with the set-piece.
“I think the big thing is the way they play with attitude and also a big desire. No matter who is out and who is in they remain a dangerous side. They have had a few hiccups, but they have still continuously played well and performed well.”
Coetzee announced a team showing just two changes from last weekend’s one-try-to-nil victory – with De Kock Steenkamp returning at No.5 lock and Deon Fourie slotting in at flank (in the No.7 jersey).
Steenkamp’s return sees Springbok starlet Eben Etzebeth shift back to No.4, with Gerbrandt Grobler – who impressed on his starting debut last weekend – dropping to the bench. The return of Fourie, meanwhile, sees the hard-working Don Armand drop to the bench.
“I think Gerbrandt was excellent for a guy who had just stepped in, but it is great to have De Kock Steenkamp back. Eben has also done a good job but he is moving back to No.4,” said Coetzee.
“De Kock spent the whole of the Currie Cup last year running the line-outs and also this year, so it’s good to have that experience against a good pack like the Kings.
“I thought Eben did well (calling last week), but it was just one game. You have got to do it on a regular basis before you can say that he has really grown into the number five position, it is still a process but that was a good start.
“Before he got injured De Kock Steenkamp was one of the forwards with the highest work-rate. He has been hitting rucks and his involvements have been enormous, so I am actually really excited to see him there (at No.5).”
Lock Etzebeth and captain De Villiers both missed training on Wednesday due to light colds, but Coetzee was happy that both would take part in Friday’s captain’s run and, thus, be fit for the weekend.
* Tickets are still available for Saturday’s match and can be purchased at the DHL Newlands ticket office (until matchday), PostNet outlets and online at wprugby.ticketpros.co.za.
** You can still support Tinus Linee via SMS – send ‘Tinus’ to 38208 (SMSes are charged at R10) – right up until Monday, June 3.