The Vodacom Stormers are on the verge of making history on Saturday when they contest their first-ever Vodacom Super 14 final at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto against the Bulls.
The Stormers have this year made huge strides and are deserving finalists. They finished second on the log behind the defending champions, the Bulls. Another epic North/South derby is in store for rugby fans.
The Bulls have transformed their game over the past two seasons and is the top try-scoring unit in the competition, while the Stormers boast the beste defensive record.
Stormers captain Schalk Burger said in a sense one could say it will be the best offence versus the best defence. “In one way it will be, but there are so many facets of rugby that you have to try and control.
“You can’t defend for 80 minutes because then you lose the match, but luck has been a factor as well.”
Burger said he was hoping the Stormers can continue in this vein for a good few seasons to come. “Hopefully it can continue for the next few years. Playing in the final is obviously the last game this year and we’ve come this far and really want to pitch up for the final.
“They’re the best side in the Southern Hemisphere, so we have a lot of respect for them, but we want to make a good fist of it,” the flank said.
A number of Stormers are in the Springbok side that tackle Wales next week in Cardiff, but coach Allister Coetzee was not concerned that they would have one eye on that match.
“Definitely not. Our motto has been to focus on the job at hand. The players in this side put the team ahead of any individual, so the focus is all on this final.”
Coetzee has a lot of respect for the imposing Bulls, but said his players embrace the challenge of going up against the champions. “You just have to look at the senior players in this side to see why they are world class players.
“It’s because they embrace the challenge of playing against the best team in the final. If you want to make your mark for yourself in SA Rugby then you don’t get a better opponent than the bulls.”
When asked to compare the pressure of a final away from home to a semi at home, the coach said it was a bit easier last weekend. “It’s been a bit easier this week in the sense that the Stormers franchise have played in a semi-final before and the players decided that they want to write their own story.
“We got to stop talking about 1999 and start talking about 2010 and they’ve done that. This week is a completely different motivation. We know we have to embrace this opportunity. It’s a fantastic climax to a great opportunity.”
Burger added: “We’re a proud bunch of guys and we want to go out there and compete well on Saturday. It doesn’t happen every year, so we’ll give it our best shot.”
The teams are:
Vodacom Bulls – Zane Kirchner, Gerhard van den Heever, Jaco Pretorius, Wynand Olivier, Francois Hougaard, Morné Steyn, Fourie du Preez, Pierre Spies, Dewald Potgieter, Deon Stegmann, Victor Matfield (c), Danie Rossouw, Werner Kruger, Gary Botha, Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Reserves: Bandise Maku, Bees Roux, Flip van der Merwe, Derick Kuün, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Jaco van der Westhuyzen, Pedrie Wannenburg.
Coach: Frans Ludeke.
Vodacom Stormers – Joe Pietersen, Gio Aplon, Jaque Fourie, Juan de Jongh, Bryan Habana, Peter Grant, Dewald Duvenhage, Duane Vermeulen, Francois Louw, Schalk Burger, Andries Bekker, Adriaan Fondse, Brok Harris, Tiaan Liebenberg, Wikus Blaauw.
Reserves: Deon Fourie, JC Kritzinger, Anton van Zyl, Pieter Louw, Ricky Januarie, Willem de Waal, Tim Whitehead.
Coach: Allister Coetzee.