The Vodacom Stormers realise beating the Lions on Saturday would not be easy, but they are confident in their ability to pull it off.
The Stormers tackle the Lions at Ellis Park in Johannesburg in a game they must win to make sure of a semi-final berth.
The Cape franchise received a nice boost on Friday when the Hurricanes lost to the Blues. The Hurricanes (40) are still second on the points’ table, but the Waratahs (39), Stormers (37) and Sharks (37) could still deny them a semi-final spot.
The South African teams would hope the Reds could pull off another surprise when they play against the Waratahs on Saturday.
Captain Jean de Villiers said there was a will in the team to really perform and do well.
The Springbok centre said they were not thinking too far ahead – referring to a possible semi-final. “We are just happy to be in this position that we are.
“We really worked hard to get here. If you look at the way we’ve been struggling the last couple of years to be in this position now is fantastic for us.
“There is such a will in this team to really perform and to do well. We know we have the opportunity now to get into a semi and you don’t get these opportunities a helluva lot, so we have to use it and play good rugby on Saturday.”
De Villiers acknowledged that the Lions, who surprised the Chiefs last Saturday at Ellis Park, would be difficult customers. “We believe if we stick to our structures and do what we’ve been doing all year, the bonus points and four tries will take care of it self.
“We believe we have a quality team together. It won’t be easy this weekend but we believe we can do it. It is much better than sitting on the other side and not having a chance at all.”
Coach Rassie Erasmus said it was a funny week, with all the permutations for a semi-final venue on offer – Sydney, Christchurch, Wellington or even Newlands.
The coach emphasised they tried hard no to allow the situation at the top of the log to distract them from the task at hand.
“It is okay to think we have a 9 points cushion on the Sharks, but we are playing the Lions who are an improved team. They have Jaque Fourie back and they are really coming together now.
“They want to end on a high note, so many different things can happen. We tried to put out energy on the practice field that I think might win us the game.”
Teams for Newlands:
Lions: 15 Earl Rose, 14 Louis Ludik, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Walter Venter, 11 Ryno Benjamin, 10 Jaco van Schalkwyk, 9 Chris Jonck, 8 Willem Alberts, 7 Joe van Niekerk, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar (captain), 5 Gerhard Mostert, 4 Dewald Senekal, 3 JC Janse van Rensburg, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Heinke van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Ross Geldenhuys, 18 Franco van der Merwe, 19 Wilhelm Koch, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Jannie Boshoff, 22 Dusty Noble.
Vodacom Stormers: 15 Conrad Jantjes, 14 Wylie Human, 13 Gcobani Bobo, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Sireli Naqelevuki, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Luke Watson, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Pieter Myburgh, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Adriaan Fondse, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Schalk Ferreira.
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Ross Skeate, 19 Robbie Diack, 20 Bolla Conradie, 21 Tony Brown, 22 Dylan des Fountain.
Referee: Marius Jonker (South Africa)