Vodacom Stormers captain Jean de Villiers has never been on the winning side as a member of the opposition team at Loftus in Pretoria.
The best the man who leads the Stormers against the Bulls in a Vodacom Super 14 match there on Saturday could manage thus far was a draw.
That is an indication of how tough a challenge the Cape Town side face when they tackle the unbeaten Bulls.
And the Stormers are under no illusion about the magnitude or the task facing them. They haven’t beaten the Bulls in the Super 14 yet and after one win out of three games this season they know they can ill afford another defeat.
De Villiers had the following to say about the fanatical Loftus crowd: “When they are your home crowd it is fantastic, but when you play against them it is not so great. I think anybody that’s been to Loftus and watched the game even knows how the crowd can have an effect on the opposition.
“It’s a great challenge for us as a team, it’s great to go up there and take that challenge. We know it won’t be easy. It is intimidating, but as a team we need to grow and be able to absorb it and take it in and rise above it. Hopefully we can do that at the weekend.”
Coach Rassie Erasmus concurred with his star centre. “It is going to be a tough challenge. They are playing well… I can say all the normal clichés, but I am under no illusions how tough it is going to be there. Our guys are definitely up for the challenge and looking forward to trying to win the game.”
He added that maybe the biggest challenge to overcome is adapting to the altitude. “The ball travel so far and you have to adjust from kick off. With their kicking game you really struggle to get out of your half and they have a great defensive system.
“Last year they got a little bit away from that under Frans (Ludeke), but this year they went back to playing that same way and it’s been successful for them. In saying that, you still have to handle that. Everybody knows what the answer is but the challenge is to go and handle that on the day. I think it is obvious but you have to try and get on top of it.”
The Bulls have always been renowned for their forward play but since former WP and Stormers wing Pieter Rossouw has joined them as backline coach they have added attacking prowess to their arsenal. “I won’t say they are more dangerous (after Rossouw’s appointment),” said De Villiers.
“They have always been a good attacking backline. They are able to create opportunities with simple play. They believe in what they do and they do execute that well. Under Pieter they’ve done really well. I’ve got lots of respect for the guys that I’m playing against.
“If you treat it that way and try and rise above and play better than them… I think that’s the way you should go about it. These days being able to analyze teams and that sort of thing it is pretty easy to pick up what teams are going to do and if you just execute it well it will be effective and they’ve been doing that.”
Erasmus said he believes they had opportunities to win the two games they have lost – against the Sharks and Reds – and they will have an opportunity to beat the Bulls too. “On Saturday there definitely will be a chance to beat the Bulls and this time we should just make sure we take it.”
Vodacom Bulls: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 JP Nel, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Gerhard van den Heever, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez (captain), 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Pedrie Wannenburg, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Danie Rossouw, 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp.
Reserves:16 Derick Kuün, 17 Rayno Gerber, 18 Victor Matfield, 19 Jacques Burger, 20 Heini Adams, 21 Burton Francis, 22 Jaco Pretorius.
Vodacom Stormers: 15 Percy Montgomery, 14 Tonderai Chavhanga, 13 Gcobani Bobo, 12 Jean De Villiers (captain), 11 Nick Koster, 10 Willem De Waal, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Luke Watson, 7 Duane Vermeulen, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 AJ Venter, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Wicus Blaauw.
Reserves: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Schalk Ferreira, 18 Adriaan Fondse, 19 Francois Louw, 20 Dewaldt Duvenage, 21 Peter Grant, 22 Sireli Naqelevuki.