Stormers

Stormers in for Massive Match against Waratahs

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The Stormers vs Waratahs clash has been billed as the feature Super 14 match of the weekend, but it could well turn out to be the match of the season, given that the outcome could be 2008’s defining moment for the two fancied teams.


To add to the intrigue, the late night show (kick-off 7.10pm SA time) at Newlands will be the last of the weekend’s seven matches, and it is quite possible that by the time the teams run out from the tunnel for Saturday’s late night show, both could find themselves outside the play-off zone (top four log positions) if the Chiefs and Sharks have secured bonus-point victories earlier in the day.


Whereas some 47 000 Stormers supporters are expected to pack out Newlands on Saturday evening, the Waratahs fans back home in Australia will have to settle for a 3.10am Sunday morning start to follow their team’s fortunes.


The projected weather forecast for match time is rain and the playing surface will be yielding after the light rains on Thursday and Friday and that is one of many variables that could be significant when determining game plans.


The Waratahs have played several games this season in wet weather, and back home in Sydney almost all their matches had evening kick-offs.


The size of the home crowd also raises the question of the noise factor, which has been a nuisance value for visiting teams who have battled to hear calls at the set-pieces.


The full-house can be hugely intimidating for visiting teams, and the Waratahs have noted that aspect in almost every pre-match interview.

 

Waratahs coach Ewen McKenzie feels a good start in the match will “shut up” the crowd.

 

He also has “a few strategies to combat” the crowd.

“We need to focus on our job better than last week (when playing the Bulls) because the Stormers will be desperate to win in front of their home crowd,” said McKenzie.


The Newlands experience has in the past rattled the nerves of rookies, many of whom will be playing in front of 40 000 or more spectators for the first time.


Said McKenzie: “This kind of cauldron will be new to a lot of young players in the team”.


Stormers’ skipper Jean de Villiers said a Newlands full-house gave one the feeling that the crowd “is almost on top of you” given the close proximity of the grandstands.


In stark contract the home side has drawn great inspiration from vocal fanatical fans and as the season has wound on the side’s semi-finals prospects have been glowing brighter but Stormers coach Rassie Erasmus has vowed that his charges won’t bend under the weight of expectation.


The only time the Stormers and the Waratahs will be on the same wavelength in the run up to the clash will be when the Sharks and Chiefs play their respective matches earlier on Saturday.


Both camps will be hoping for defeats for both Sharks and Chiefs, as that would safeguard their berths in play-off zone.


And if that happens, the Stormers and Waratahs’ chances of a money-spinning home semifinal will be significantly boosted.

 

Apart from the focus of reaching the Super 14 semifinals players on both sides will also have personal ambitions at the back of their minds as there are only two rounds of matches remaining to impress national team selectors.

Both South Africa and Australia will commence 2008 in-coming Tours at the start of June, and their training squads will be announced in two weeks time.


Given the consistent performances in the ranks of the Stormers, they should supply the biggest contingent of the local Super 14 franchises when new coach Peter de Villiers names his preliminary squad for training at Stellenbosch.


At this stage players like Conrad Jantjes (fullback), Gcobani Bobo, Jean de Villiers (both centres), Peter Grant (flyhalf), Enrico Januarie (scrumhalf), Brian Mujati (prop), Schalk Brits (hooker), Andries Bekker (lock) and Luke Watson (flank) all have strong claims to Springbok selection.


Players on the Stormers’ injury list like Tonderai Chavhanga (wing), Schalk Burger (flank) and Tiaan Liebenberg (hooker) will also warrant consideration when they return to action.


But Stormers coach Erasmus has cautioned that his players are “professional enough” to put the Super 14 aspirations of the team ahead of personal ambitions in the remaining Super 14 matches.


Sapa –  Super14.com

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