Stormers shun Cape hype
20 May 2010
Allister Coetzee believes the Stormers will draw inspiration from a packed Newlands rather than succumb to public expectation.
Wednesday’s training session at The Pentagon (or Stormers’ High Performance Centre for those not in the know) saw fans both young and old turning out in high numbers. Cape Town’s buzzing as its rugby team prepares for the most important Super Rugby match in 11 years – a home semi-final against the Waratahs.
It’s not often that the media hype extends beyond the halfway stage in these parts. Usually the hype waxes in the pre-season, and wanes in accordance with the Stormers’ tournament form.
2010 has witnessed a break in the perennial trend. The Stormers have been consistent and are deservedly within sight of not only a final place, but the title itself. For once, they’ve created the expectation through the weight of performance rather than pre-season speculation, but the coach and captain continue to downplay their potential to achieve greatness.
‘We can’t talk too big before we play,’ was Schalk Burger’s best offering to keo.co.za. It seems the Stormers are trying to get through this attention and expectation before the game on Saturday, and are diplomatically keeping the press at arm’s length.
The Waratahs have spent the majority of the week preparing in Durban as coach Chris Hickey has sought to avoid this kind of attention. Given the hectic travel schedule, you can’t find fault with Hickey’s decision.
The last thing the players need after a rigorous journey from Sydney is the added pressure of the media, and according to one source, the distractions of Cape Town itself. The Tahs will train at Newlands on Friday just a day before the all-important clash.
Coetzee said he’s expecting plenty of on-the-field pressure, but has done his utmost to ensure external factors don’t affect his team. On the back of Burger’s ‘It’s just another game,’ the coach admitted his primary task this week has been to keep the team focused.
‘It has nothing to do with the pressure off the field,’ he told this website. ‘When you talk about pressure, the only pressure you should be talking about is that on game day between the four white lines.
‘Semi-finals are all about pressure. You have to impose yourself on defence and impose yourself with ball in hand. The team that makes the fewest mistakes is the team to win.’
Coetzee was in charge of the Western Province side that lost to the Blue Bulls in the 2009 semi-final which was also staged at Newlands. He said lessons have been learned from that defeat.
‘We conceded some early penalties and were on the back foot; we ended up playing catch-up rugby. We’ve certainly learned from that experience.
‘We have to embrace the pressure. I’m glad that we have so many senior players in the side [Bryan Habana, Burger, Jaque Fourie and Andries Bekker won the Tri-Nations last year]. Even Ricky Januarie is a Bok on the bench.’
This will be the Stormers’ third appearance in the Super Rugby semi-finals, having featured in the 1999 and 2004 play-offs. They lost to the Highlanders and Crusaders respectively.
What’s in their favour is the aforementioned quartet that has enjoyed success in big Test tournaments. All four have won the Tri-Nations and beat the British & Irish Lions in 2009, Habana, Burger and Fourie have won the World Cup while Habana has the full set of accolades having captured two Super Rugby titles and a Currie Cup with the Bulls.
By Jon Cardinelli