Newlands win a stepping stone to glory

Schalk Burger says the Stormers need to secure a week’s reprieve between the league stage and semi-finals if they’re going to win the tournament, reports JON CARDINELLI.

At the beginning of the season, the Cape side targeted a top-two finish for another reason besides home advantage in the play-offs. They were allotted byes in Round 1 and 9, meaning that their league stage was divided into two eight-week stretches. If they didn’t manage to secure sufficient log points to qualify for the top two, it would mean playing 10 consecutive games before they reached the grand final.

As it stands, they currently find themselves in second position on the combined log, and if they win their remaining matches they will confirm their place in the semi-finals and possibly finish top of the league.

Burger said this is a massive motivating factor after a long and taxing season.

‘Both the Stormers and Bulls are in the running for a play-off spot, so there’s everything to play for,’ Burger told ‘We’re not trying to beat the Bulls now to avoid playing them in a potential play-off, it’s more about booking our place in the semis and getting that bye after the league stage.

‘They’re desperate to win the next two games and qualify for the play-offs, but we’re also desperate to achieve our objective. Obviously something’s got to give when two desperate teams come up against each other, and we’re hoping that we come out on top.

‘It’s not about knocking out the Bulls. We want home advantage in the play-offs, and we need to earn that break before the semis. I think that will give us a proper chance of winning the title itself.’

The Stormers have already beaten the Bulls once this season, and Burger admitted that the Pretoria side will miss the likes of Fourie du Preez and Bakkies Botha when they visit Cape Town this weekend.

But the Stormers’ captain tempered this statement by saying that the Bulls will still be tremendously tough to beat given the quality of the replacements scrumhalf Francois Hougaard and lock Danie Rossouw.

‘They’ve built up some momentum by winning the last few games, and history will show they’re very difficult to stop at this stage of the season,’ said Burger.

‘I remember [in 2007] when they needed a massive points haul to qualify for the play-offs and they ended up beating the Reds 92-3. When their backs are against the wall, they’re extremely dangerous.’

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