The Vodacom Stormers and the Chiefs will become Super Rugby pioneers when they meet at the Blue Chip Stadium in Tauranga on Saturday.
The two will have the privilege of playing in the first-ever Vodacom Super 14 game to be played in Tauranga, a resort town about 140 kilometers from Hamilton.
The stadium where the match is being played is privately-owned by a local businessman. The venue has previously been used for – of all things – stock car racing and has been recently refurbished to bring it to Super 14 standard. The owner has even installed a roof over the ground to make it acceptable to SANZAR standards.
The Vodacom Stormers have settled in at their placid seaside locale at Mount Manganui, which is expecting a huge influx of people over the Easter Weekend. This is one of the reasons why the Chiefs chose to play the game here as many locals from Hamilton and other main centres are expected to be in town for the long weekend.
The players put in a heavy gym session on Monday morning with much of the rest of the day spent in video sessions on the Blues match as well as on analysis of the Chiefs’ previous matches.
WP Director of coaching Nick Mallett, who arrived in New Zealand on Sunday, will work with the coaching team on Monday and Tuesday before travelling to Wellington on other business.
In effect, the match is an “away” fixture for both teams, with the Chiefs moving from the comfort of their usual home base. This is a feature of the game that Stormers coach Kobus van der Merwe believes will suit his team. “The game is effectively being played at a neutral venue,” he said. “We have seen before that a team’s performance can change when they come out of familiar turf, even if they are still at home. Hopefully, we will be able to take advantage of this in what I expect will be a very tough game”.
Van der Merwe said the team had to put the poor performance against the Blues behind it and begin focusing on the week ahead. “We have acknowledged that the loss was not up to scratch. What is important is that we learn from it and not make the same mistakes against the Chiefs. This is a crucial week on tour and we have to give it all we have got if we are going to do well at the weekend”.