CAPE TOWN – Although captain Siya Kolisi says the Stormers’ clash against the Chiefs is “the closest some of the guys will get to a Test match”, his team are confident of their chances against the Kiwis despite the pressure.
And there is a lot of pressure.
The Stormers are dead set on righting all the wrongs of the Super Rugby quarter-final at Newlands last year against the same opposition, and with good reason.
If the Newlands faithful thought that their vision of the onslaught was perhaps blurred by their tears last year, the scoreboard confirmed the extent of the thrashing their beloved Stormers suffered (60-21, of course). But I don’t see that happening this time round, and neither does Kolisi.
At the team announcement at Newlands on Thursday, Kolisi also made the team’s intention of scoring tries clear, and added that he knows that you can’t beat the Chiefs with penalties.
“We want to score tries, and not just get three points the whole time. So we’re going to find a way to make it work so that we get those tries,” Kolisi said.
“We’re feeling good, we’re feeling really good. We’ve prepared well, that’s the thing. We’re feeling confident.
“We don’t try and put extra stress on the guys. This is the closest some of the guys will get to a Test match, which is good. The guys are only excited about it.”
Kolisi was very focused on the task at hand, and said that his team won’t be paying much attention to any niggly play by the opposition either. And again, he explained how well-prepared his side were.
“We just have to focus on what we have to do and we just have to manage the situation, the ref can’t always see everything. We’ve seen the clips, we’ve seen what they do. So we’ve prepared and we know what’s coming. We’re going to have to make sure we adapt to the situation in front of us,” he said.
The Stormers have produced promising performances since the start of the season, but Kolisi is well aware of the fact that the real “test” of how they’ve come will be today (5.15pm kickoff).
“This is going to be the big test. I think we’ve worked very hard, especially from where we were the last time we played them. It’s going to be a good challenge for us to see how much we’ve improved when we play against them,” the skipper said
“We can obviously see the improvements with all the games that we’ve played, but this is going to be a good challenge."
There are a number of tests that will be particularly interesting to see – how the Stormers’ attacking game holds up to that of the Chiefs, if their offloads stick, and the lineout and scrum battles.
Then there’s also the battle of the backlines, with the Chiefs boasting a stunning array of attackers pumping with pace and skill, while the Stormers aren’t lacking in that department either.
But it was the breakdown contest that Kolisi figures is going to be a real competition, even with the Chiefs missing a crucial breakdown option in Sam Cane due to injury.
“It’s going to be a good test for us as loosies, we’re going to stand up and we’ve just gotta outwork them. That’s what we gotta do, because they do their work relentlessly. They work all the time. That’s what they do best.
“So I think that’s what it’s going to come to, who gets to the breakdown first. And they’re going to be ruthless when they get there.”
In the build-up to the clash, coach Robbie Fleck said that his team’s performance against the Chiefs will not only matter for Stormers rugby, but also South African rugby.
And if the men from Cape Town manage to make up for the disappointment of last year, imagine, just imagine, the amazing attacking path Fleck’s team will then have tempted the rest of South Africa to follow...
Teams For Newlands
Stormers: 15 SP Marais, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Dan du Plessis, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Siya Kolisi (captain), 6 Cobus Wiese, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Bench: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Dan Kriel.
Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Stephen Donald, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Michael Leitch, 7 Lachlan Boshier, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Atu Moli, 2 Hika Elliot, 1 Kane Hames.
Bench: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, 18 Sosefo Kautai, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Mitchell Brown, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Sam McNicol, 23 Shaun Stevenson.
Referee: Jaco Peyper. Kickoff: 5.15pm.