Cape Town – After enduring several years of disappointment in Super Rugby, Jean de Villiers has called on his team to “actually do it this time” and win the title following Western Province’s Currie Cup final defeat.
De Villiers was named as the Stormers captain for the 2014 season on Wednesday by coach Allister Coetzee following a practice at the Hawston Sports Ground near Hermanus, with the fit-again Schalk Burger appointed as vice-captain.
Despite achieving so much with the Springboks, both De Villiers and Burger have endured torrid careers without a winners’ trophy at senior provincial level. There have always been enormous expectations from the fans of the Stormers, but perhaps this year may be an exception as they have lost a number of top players such as Bryan Habana, Jaque Fourie and Andries Bekker over the last few seasons.
But De Villiers believes that his team can clinch the elusive title – maybe with a bit of luck added to the mix as well. “The team has matured a lot, and you can see that the guys have put in extra effort in the off-season. Ask any franchise what their goal is at this stage, and they will say that they want to win the Super Rugby tournament. And we are no different. Every team believes that now, and we need to show it when we play,” the Bok skipper told the Cape Times.
“It’s always disappointing when you lose a final, especially at Newlands, and it makes a person stronger. Hopefully you learn something from that, and the Sharks definitely identified a flaw in our system. So we need to put that right. It will be sorted out!
“Our structures are in place, and the fact that we make semi-finals and finals shows that they are working. Now it’s about winning those games, and sometimes it’s so close, you shouldn’t over-think it – hopefully we can get the rub of the green. Not much will be different ... we want to win the competition, and hopefully we can actually do it this time.”
Coetzee hinted that both De Villiers and Burger would be rested at certain times this season, with the midfielder having played a lot of rugby recently and Burger still making his way back from illness and injury. So they are likely to take turns with the captaincy.
“I’m just very happy to have both Schalk and Jean. Obviously they understand the Stormers culture very well. They’ve got a very good relationship and understand fully the processes and what we want to achieve this year. I think both players ... it’s great to have the balance – Schalk has just come back from two years out of rugby, and he played a full 80 minutes for the Baabaas last year,” the coach said.
“So it’s going to take management from our side with Schalk, and we’ve got Jean in certain periods of the year who will have to be managed as well.
“Therefore, it actually makes it a very good mix to have both of them in that role.
“I just think that both players have contributed a hell of a lot over the last couple of seasons, and they understand fully the expectation here in Cape Town.”
Burger had a few cameos towards the end of the Currie Cup season for WP last year after recovering from meningitis and later an ankle injury. But he is keen to make up for lost time in Super Rugby, having last run out for the Stormers against the Hurricanes at Newlands at the beginning of 2012.
“It’s (Super Rugby) rugby that tests you as an individual and a team, so I’m looking forward to playing a bit, you know. Hopefully the injury bogey can stay away – I’m feeling good. Like I’ve said before, the head is always ready to play rugby, but my body has let me down a bit the last few years. I hope to build up some good form in the warm-up games, and carry it into the season,” the big flank said yesterday.
“(The Barbarians game last year) gave me some self-confidence. I played a bit off the bench for WP, and it was perhaps difficult circumstances. So it was nice to play 80 minutes again after such a long time. You wonder whether you still have it or not, and it was very nice to come through the 80 minutes.”
Asked if felt a bit younger after such a long time out, Burger quipped: “I won’t say I feel a bit younger, but maybe in rugby years! That’s what I tell everybody – I’m 30, but I’m actually 28 in rugby years. I tell my teammates that and they don’t believe me!
“Hopefully I can show them on the field.
“A guy has a lot of frustration if you are not playing rugby, especially if it’s taken away from you by an injury. It’s something that is totally out of your control.
“But I play rugby to enjoy it, and the big goal for this year is to really enjoy it. And you do that when the team does well.” We will see how it goes, as Super Rugby is a totally different competition.
“I have been there before and have the experience, so I hope to get some good form and prove a point or two.”
Stormers 2014 Fixtures:
(All SA times)
February 14/15: Bye
Saturday February 22: Lions, Johannesburg, 7.10pm
Friday February 28: Hurricanes, Newlands, 7.10pm
Saturday March 8: Crusaders, Christchurch, 8.35am
Friday March 14: Chiefs, Hamilton, 8.35am
Saturday March 22: Brumbies, Canberra, 10.40am
Saturday March 29: Reds, Brisbane, 10.40am
Saturday April 5: Waratahs, Newlands, 7.10pm
Weekend of April 11/12: Bye
Saturday April 19: Lions, Newlands, 5.05pm
Saturday April 26: Cheetahs, Bloemfontein, 5.05pm
Saturday May 3: Highlanders, Newlands, 3pm
Saturday May 10: Bulls, Pretoria, 7.10pm
Saturday May 17: Force, Newlands, 5.05pm
Saturday May 24: Cheetahs, Newlands, 5.05pm
Saturday May 31: Sharks, Durban, 7.10pm
Four-week June Test break
Saturday July 5: Bulls, Newlands, 5.05pm
Saturday July 12: Sharks, Newlands, 7.10pm
Qualifiers: July 18/19
Semi-finals: July 25/26
Final: August 2