Cape Town - The Cape Town weather office has predicted a 100% chance of rain for the city on Saturday, but Schalk Burger is hoping that the wet weather can stay away somewhat so that the Stormers and Bulls can put on a “much better spectacle” in the Super Rugby derby at Newlands.
And the Stormers actually didn’t do too badly the last time they played in rainy weather at Newlands as they destroyed the Cheetahs 33-0 on May 24, scoring four tries in the process to record a rare bonus point.
“It makes the game tough when there’s rain around. The territory game and your basics need to be so much more solid, and a lot of times with modern-day defences, games just sit on a knife-edge for a long time until you either slip up or there’s a moment of brilliance. Obviously us players want some good weather for the weekend as it makes for a much better spectacle, especially in front of a big crowd,” Stormers stand-in captain Burger said after practice at Newlands on Wednesday.
“But if the conditions determine otherwise, we’ve just got to adapt. Our previous game in bad conditions here was against the Cheetahs, and we adapted well on that night.”
Burger believes that it’s going to be a major tactical challenge against the Bulls, who boast a Springbok halfback pairing in Francois Hougaard and Handré Pollard, and they will come up against the Stormers duo of Nic Groom and Kurt Coleman.
Burger wants to see his team eliminate the errors that saw Pollard kick five penalties in the first-round match at Loftus Versfeld in May.
“We started nicely and put them under pressure, but then we had an inability to exit our own half. And whenever we got into their half, we gave them free exits via penalties or our own mistakes. As the game progressed, they started pinning us in our half through penalty after penalty and a try or two,” Burger said.
“Since then, the team’s improved bit by bit, and I think we’ve got the balance right - how to exit and when to exit, and I think in games after that, we’ve been able to put other sides under pressure. This weekend is again going to be a tactical challenge for us, and hopefully we start well and pin them in their own half.
“Obviously the two sides have got different styles of play, and where we take a bit more chances and play with the ball a bit more, they are pretty structured. So it’s going to be an interesting match-up, but at the end of the day it is a derby, there’s going to be a lot of feeling and physicality, and hopefully our team can match up to theirs.”
As expected, Juan de Jongh and Sailosi Tagicakibau will combine as the centre pairing for the first time, while Gio Aplon is back at right wing. Burger also returns in the loose trio, and there is a brand-new face on the bench in Springbok Sevens speedster Seabelo Senatla as a back-up wing.
Western Province had contracted Senatla for the Currie Cup, but a calf injury sustained by Kobus van Wyk at training on Tuesday sees Senatla getting his chance a bit earlier. Van Wyk is set to be out for around five weeks. “Seabelo has shown in Sevens that he is a very exciting player. His greatest attribute is definitely his pace - the man is really quick,” coach Allister Coetzee said on Wednesday.
“I thought the Currie Cup would be the opportunity for Seabelo to showcase his skill-set, but it came earlier and we are all excited to see him play.”
Senatla starred for the SA Under-20 side at the IRB Junior World Championship in France last year, where he was the leading try-scorer in the competition. He was at left wing, with Cheslin Kolbe at fullback. Now he is hoping to be reunited with Kolbe and Aplon, who has played a lot of Sevens rugby, on Saturday.
“I am very excited to be playing in the highest format of 15-man rugby at club level,” said the 21-year-old flyer, who hails from Welkom.
“I’ve played with Chessie before, and he’s a very good player. And Gio Aplon as well, the guys are very mobile, man, and I love playing with guys who are more mobile and have a certain way of playing. They come from Sevens and have a certain skill-set, Juan (de Jongh) also. It’s very nice to be playing with players like that, because we understand each other better like that.”
Having reached the national team at Under-20 and Sevens level, Senatla says the ultimate goal is to become a 15-man Springbok. Cornal Hendricks is the latest player to graduate from Sevens to the Bok side, and Senatla wants to emulate him.
“Playing Sevens with Cornal, it’s kind of inspiring to see him play for the 15-man side as it gives us hope. We can see if someone did it, then we can too. He is an inspiration, and we are also aspiring to that.”
Meanwhile, there is a small chance of Duane Vermeulen not recovering in time for the big clash. Coetzee said: “Duane didn’t train today (Wednesday), and like I said earlier in the week, it’s the way we manage Duane. He will join us for captain’s (practice on Thursday) and should he not come through captain’s, then we’ve got some back-up plans - Jean Kleyn will come in (on the bench) and Siya Kolisi will be starting (at No 6, with Nizaam Carr moving to No 8).
“Duane is just generally sore, it’s just the load (of playing a lot of games) in his case. You would’ve noticed that the Boks played him for 60 minutes last week against Scotland and then he came off.”
15 Jaco Taute, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger (captain), 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Michael Rhodes, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Alistair Vermaak. Bench: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Martin Dreyer, 19 Manuel Carizza, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Peter Grant, 23 Seabelo Senatla.