The Vodacom Stormers pack is busy dispelling the notion that they are the soft underbelly of the side, but the real test will come on Saturday.
The Stormers then take on the Hurricanes, who have annihilated the much-vaunted Bulls pack at Loftus Versfeld in their Super 14 match the past Saturday.
Forwards coach Gary Gold is happy with the progress the pack has shown thus far this season. And it gives him great pleasure that no one is referring to the “softy Stormers pack” any longer in the build-up to games.
But he warned that the Hurricanes would be a real tester this weekend.
“I am glad about that (the pack’s performance),” said Gold. “There was that perception and I found it quite annoying.
“In one way or another I have been involved with the forwards for the past three years and I am happy that they have risen to the challenge. Rassie gave them the challenge to dispel this theory.
“But we should remember you are only as good as your last game and this week will bring another tough tussle upfront. We realise we should be ready for real tough opposition, as the Hurricanes pack are loaded with All Blacks.
“It is pleasing to see how our guys put their hands up though. It is not only the pack, but the entire team. We are at an important part of the season now and we need to keep our feet on the ground.
“We realise we haven’t achieved anything yet and the hard work still lies ahead.” Gold, who is renowned for a shrewd tactical mind, warned that the Hurricanes will be dangerous. He rates them – with the Blues – just behind the Crusaders.
“The Hurricanes don’t have many weaknesses. To play against a team with Andrew Hore, Jason Eaton, Neemia Tialata and an All Black back row in Jerry Collings, Chris Masoe and Rodney So’oialo will always be a huge challenge.
“With Nonu and Smith at centre the spine of this team are All Blacks. They have a monster pack and they are very mobile too. They lay a good physical foundation with their pack and they have lethal backs.
“They relish those one-on-one situations, so we will have our work cut out for us.”
But Gold found a positive in the way the Hurricanes approach the game. “The nice thing about them is that they want to come out and play rugby.
“They are not conservative and won’t be kicking the ball in the box all day long. We don’t play well against such teams.
“They will run at us and hurt us if we are not on top of our game. It will be an expansive game between two good teams and really exciting to watch.
“We know exactly where we want to be careful. We need to match their pack. Their pack absolutely blew the Bulls away and set a platform for their backs.
“You have a handicap when you defend against front foot ball and we must make sure that doesn’t happen. Otherwise it will be a tough day at the office.”
Teams for Newlands:
Vodacom Stormers: 15 Conrad Jantjes, 14 Tonderai Chavhanga, 13 Gcobani Bobo, 12 Jean De Villiers (captain), 11 Sireli Naqelevuki, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Luke Watson, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Adriaan Fondse, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 JD Moller.
Replacements: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Ross Skeate, 19 Robbie Diack, 20 Bolla Conradie, 22 Tony Brown 22 Gio Aplon.
Hurricanes: 15 Cory Jane, 14 Hosea Gear, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Shannon Paku, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Rodney So’oialo (captain), 7 Chris Masoe, 6 Jerry Collins, 5 Jason Eaton, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Neemia Tialata, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 John Schwalger.
Replacements: 16 Hikawera Elliot, 17 Tim Fairbrother, 18 Bernie Upton, 19 Scott Waldrom, 20 Willie Ripia, 21 Tane Tu’ipulotu, 22 Zac Guildford.
Referee: James Leckie (Australia)