Business as usual for Jean
Gavin Rich, SuperSport
Cape Town - There won’t be much that will be different for Jean de Villiers about his 100th game – as he has done for most of the past five or six years, he will be at the front of the Stormers team when they run out to face the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday.
"It will be business as usual for me," said De Villiers on the supersport.com website.
"I haven’t been thinking a lot about the fact that this is my 100th game for the Stormers and I will approach it in the same way as I approach other games," said De Villiers.
"There won’t be anything different about me running out in front of the team (as is usually the case with players celebrating milestones) as I do that every week as the captain of the team anyway.
"And neither will I be motivating the players to play for me.
"If you ask a player to look for a different motivation to the one he usually draws on for playing this game, then you are asking for trouble.
"For me there is enough motivation for us because of the situation we are in.
"We are at a stage where we have to win, there is a lot of pressure on us to get the result, this is a must win game for us, and we are playing against the champions on their home field."
De Villiers made his Stormers debut in 2005 but was a Springbok three years earlier than that, when he was still just 21.
So he has travelled a long road, and in nine seasons with the Cape franchise has seen many highs and lows.
Unsurprisingly, he says the lure of winning the Super Rugby trophy for the Stormers for the first time is what keeps him going.
"It has been great to be involved with the team for so long as I have been able to see and be part of the progression," said the centre.
"Over the years we have moved from a place where we were really struggling to be competitive and to make it to the play-offs to a place where we have been able to be competitive week in and week out and to challenge for places in the play-offs on a fairly consistent basis.
"Being part of that rebuilding phase and seeing it pay off has been pleasing.
"Yes, people will say we haven’t completed the process because we haven’t won a Super Rugby trophy yet, and to be fair, they would be right.
"But seeing young players come through and develop has been satisfying for me.
"When you get a young guy coming in and playing his first game and then a short time later he is an established international player, that is great to see and it is good to feel you were part of that guy’s development.
"The highs over the last nine years have definitely outweighed the lows for me, but what keeps you going is hunting the trophy and trying to win the competition.
"That is not an easy task but you have to aim high and that is what we are doing."
De Villiers has had a rotten run of luck in New Zealand in recent times.
Last year in a Super Rugby game against the Blues, the Stormers were unlucky to win a game where the bounce of the ball and the refereeing calls went the wrong way, in August 2013 the Springbok team that he was leading had the wind taken from its sails when the most valuable player in the forwards, Bismarck du Plessis, was unjustly sent from the field amidst a nightmare performance from the referee.
Then last week the Crusaders were decidedly fortunate to sneak home in a game in Christchurch where the Stormers had plenty of chances to win.
But while that adds up to a sorry sequence of woe going into the match against the Super Rugby champions, De Villiers is being consoled by the thought that his luck in New Zealand is due for a change.
"I do think the luck has to change, but again, as I said post the game in Christchurch, you win some and you lose some.
"I think that is where home ground advantage comes into it.
"The week before last we got up to win narrowly against the Hurricanes.
"Many people thought we were lucky to win that game, and maybe we were.
"In Christchurch it went the other way.
"The key is just to put everything in perspective.
"It is not about the result, but how we played in Christchurch.
"We worked on things that needed to be improved on and in most areas we did improve.
"Yes, there were a couple of calls that went against us but we have to move on from that and step up in performance on Friday."
De Villiers said one of the goals on Friday would be to make better use of scoring opportunities.
"There wasn’t one guy who cost us the game in Christchurch, as a collective we could have made better use of our opportunities and closed the game out.
"There was the incident where I went over and we didn’t get the decision from the referee, and then there was the other when Jaco (Taute) failed to make use of a two in one situation.
"The good thing though is that we are creating opportunities, and I thought we attacked quite well considering the conditions.
"We are just going to have to improve on that against the Chiefs and convert the opportunities into points."