Cape Town – The Stormers are on the cusp of achieving their best ever Super Rugby season and the lowly Australian outfit, the Melbourne Rebels, is the only remaining hurdle in their path.
Given their respective records this season, the Stormers-Rebels clash at Newlands on Saturday has a 'David versus Goliath' look about it but host captain Jean de Villiers played down the notion.
“In Super Rugby, any team can beat any team on the day,” said De Villiers.
“One just has to look at the scores and it shows the quality of this competition.”
One of the scores that illustrates De Villiers' sense of Saturday's occasion is the Rebels' shock 28-19 win over seven-time champions Crusaders a few weeks ago in Melbourne.
The Rebels are the real whipping boys in the class of 2012.
They have far and away the most points (494) against by any team and, equally, have conceded the most tries with 57 touch-downs.
They are the only side to concede in excess of 50 tries after 15 rounds.
De Villiers has shown great foresight by concluding that the Rebels will be fuelled by emotion at Newlands because the match will be the swansong for several of their players.
Wallaby legend Stirling Mortlock (retiring) who has scored well over a 1000 Super Rugby points (previously with the Brumbies) tops the list with fellow Aussie nationals Julian Huxley (off to France) and Mark Gerrard (off to Japan) also playing a final time for the Rebels.
Other players leaving include James Hilgendorf, Michael Lipman, Adam Byrnes, Tom Chamberlain and Heath Tessmann.
“There will definitely be a feeling that they want to play for each other and let those guys leave with good memories,” said De Villiers.
“A guy like Mortlock has given so much for his country and the franchises that he has been involved with. There is always something to play for.
“If you look at that backline with guys like Gerrard, and Mortlock, they're all internationals, so you have to pitch up on the day otherwise you will get surprised and you will get beaten.”
De Villiers said his own team would also had a lot to play for and they would regret it if they allowed their quest for glory to falter at this stage.
“We don't have guys retiring yet but there are the play-offs and semi-finals to play for,” he said.
The Stormers (62) trail the Chiefs (63) by one point at the top of the log and De Villiers said the result of the Chiefs' game against the Hurricanes on Friday, would give them clearer picture of what they needed to do to top the log and it would, therefore, have a bearing on the team's approach to Saturday's match. – Sapa