CAPE TOWN – While the Stormers’ Superhero-themed match against the Bulls at the weekend was just a warm-up, Stormers lock Salmaan Moerat says it is a day he will remember for the rest of his life.
Now, in any other instance, describing a Super Rugby pre-season match as a highlight of your career would probably sound a bit odd. After all, it’s just a friendly, right?
But this one was different.
It was a warm-up fixture that drew a record crowd to Cape Town Stadium. Heck, the atmosphere was way more pumping than what we’ve seen in local Super Rugby games in recent years. There was no comparison to be made.
So then, it’s understandable that for a 20-year-old playing in front of a crowd of almost 50 000 - warm-up game or not - is quite something...especially for one who is eager to climb his way to the top of Western Province’s colossal second-row ranks.
But if you’ve followed Moerat’s young career, you’d be pretty confident that in years to come, this Superhero Sunday highlight will probably slip down his list of memorable moments pretty quickly.
Seriously, who can doubt there is many more to come for the two-metre tall Paarl Boys’ High product?
And while their 33-28 win over the Bulls in the second match of the day was “really important,” the former SA School’s skipper knows that the real (and first of many) litmus tests will be at Loftus in their Super Rugby-opener.
“I think this past weekend went really well, but in saying that there’s still a couple of things we need to work on,” Moerat said.
“At the end of the day it was just a warm-up game, the real challenge will come in two weeks’ time at Loftus. But any win over a Super Rugby side is really important... mentally this win was really important.”
“The big one is on the 16th of Feb, and they’ll change a couple of things, but it’s always nice to win in the Stormers jersey.”
Following Sunday’s match, Stormers coach Robbie Fleck said the depth and competition in the group can only be good for the team.
And if there’s one area where the Stormers are particularly well off, it’s the second row.
With world-class lineout marvels like Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit way up the pecking order and the likes of the oh-so promising JD Schickerling and the experienced Chris van Zyl also in the mix, Moerat knows that every opportunity is a golden one. And Moerat plans on making the most of every chance he gets, while also learning from the second-row stocks the union boasts.
“It was a highlight of my career to play in front of such a big crowd, it’s a day I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” he said of the weekend’s action.
“The competition is of course very healthy in the group. As a youngster in the side I just want to keep learning, and if I get that opportunity I want to grab it with both hands. I’m just going to focus on the team.
But I’d like to improve on my carries and my conditioning; that’s where these warm-up games help a lot. I’d like to see the team prosper this year and I believe there’s a lot of potential. We’ve got a good balance of young talent and experience.
There’s a lot of good energy, so I believe we’ve got the right ingredients to do better.”@WynonaLouw