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Long trip to England can help Stormers stay fresh for Exeter Chiefs battle, says Ruhan Nel

Stormers centre Ruhan Nel

FILE - Stormers centre Ruhan Nel. Photo: Shaun Roy/BackpagePix

Published Apr 5, 2023


Cape Town — After two long flights and a lengthy bus ride, the Stormers finally arrived in England on Wednesday, but say they won’t use the travelling as an excuse in Saturday’s Champions Cup quarter-final against the Exeter Chiefs (6.30pm SA time kick-off).

Defence coach Norman Laker explained from Exeter that the Cape outfit left the Mother City on Tuesday morning in three different groups as there weren’t flights available on Monday evening.

Part of the reason for that was the dramatic finish to the Exeter-Montpellier last-16 clash on Sunday, which ended in a 33-33 draw and meant that the English club would host the Stormers at Sandy Park.

If Montpellier had won, they would have travelled to South Africa to face the Stormers — who had beaten Harlequins 32-28 on Saturday — at the Cape Town Stadium.

“Dark, cold, but not too bad! But in saying cold, I am still wearing my short-sleeve (T-shirt) and short pants!” Laker said with a smile.

“My group went to Dubai, then Heathrow, and then we took a bus down to Exeter — which was a three-and-a-half-hour drive. Some of the guys travelled via Dubai and others via Doha. We all landed in London today, but everyone’s happy to be here and looking forward to the short week lying ahead, and the travel was long, but good.

“We are not worrying ourselves too much on the travel. It’s all about the game and being fresh on Saturday. The guys are doing some massages this afternoon, just for the recovery from the flights, and tomorrow we will have a light training session and captain’s on Friday. It was a bit disruptive, but we are not going to hammer on it and let it get in our way to perform on Saturday.”

In fact, star midfielder Ruhan Nel felt that the long journey to Exeter could aid the players in being fresh for Saturday’s knockout clash, and that being in different groups meant that the majority of the team could fly in business class.

“Many of us are playing long enough and technology has developed so much, so everybody was sitting with an iPad, cellphone or laptop, where we could go through the plan for the weekend, and have a look at Exeter’s stuff,” the outside centre said.

“So, sometimes in such a week, there will be one or two fewer field sessions, which is actually a good thing as you remain fresh, but mentally, you stay sharp as it almost forces you to spend a bit more time behind the computer screen.

“It’s definitely not something that we are concerned about, and after Saturday’s game and the day of travel, maybe one less practice is actually a good thing.

“Ideally, direct flights will always be prize number one, but we can’t change certain things. So, there’s no use fighting it or pondering on it, or having that affect us once we get here.

“The boys have done really well in terms of just accepting the fact that it might take a flight or two longer to get here. If we are going to let that be the reason that we can’t perform on the weekend, then we’re starting to look for excuses. We addressed that during the season and said this is not ideal, but it is what it is.”


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