A win with even half a point in their opening Vodacom Super 14 match against the Sharks at Newlands on Saturday would satisfy Vodacom Stormers coach Rassie Erasmus.
The Stormers, who finished fifth on the points’ table in last year’s competition, know they will have their work cut out against a team that played in the semi-finals last season. A slow start – they lost their first three games – and a lack of bonus points ultimately cost the Cape franchise a semi-final spot.
Erasmus emphasized that getting a bonus point is not a factor for them at this stage of the competition.
“We are playing against a team that, if you beat them by half a point, you should be really happy. We really want to win this game. It will be amazing if we get a bonus point but I think that will be a difficult task.
“Once you are in contention for a semi-final and final place you start thinking about bonus points.”
The Sharks have had the upper hand in the last three clashes between these two sides and the Stormers would love nothing more than to turn the tables on their opponents.
The wily coach expects the strong Sharks outfit to test his side in all facets of the game. “They will challenge us everywhere – the scrums, lineouts, the breakdowns where they are very good, their kicking game is good as is their defence.
“This is a good start to the competition because you can compare yourself to a side that played in the semi-finals last year and who have been a finalist before. By 7 o’ clock on Saturday we would know where we stand in this competition.
“On the one hand it is bad to start against such a strong side but you also immediately know where you find yourself in the competition.”
A lot was said about the two front rows and the scrum battle this week, but Erasmus said he has no concerns about his team’s scrum. “I am not worried at all.”
The coach said he knows the Stormers supporters have high expectations from the team this year. “We feel the pressure but so do the other guys. The Sharks feel the pressure and the Crusaders feel the pressure.
“It is a matter of making your bed and now we just have to sleep in it. We cannot moan about the pressure and expectations. All we have to do is work hard on the training field and focus on the games. In 80 minutes we should show what we have done on the training field.
“There is pressure but we need to handle it.”
Teams for Newlands:
Vodacom Stormers: 15 Conrad Jantjes, 14 Tonderai Chavhanga, 13 Gcobani Bobo, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Nick Koster, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Enrico Januarie, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Adrian Fondse, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 JD Moller.
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Wikus Blaauw, 18 AJ Venter, 19 Luke Watson, 20 Bolla Conradie, 21 Joe Pietersen, 22 Percy Montgomery.
Sharks: 15 Stefan Terblanche, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Adrian Jacobs, 12 Francois Steyn, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Ruan Pienaar, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Johann Muller (captain), 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 John Smit, 1 Deon Carstens.
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Melusi Mthethwa, 18 Alistair Hargreaves, 19 Jacques Botes, 20 Ross Cronjé, 21 Riaan Swanepoel, 22 Luzuko Vulindlu. Referee: Mark Lawrence (South Africa)
Referee: Mark Lawrence (South Africa)