Highlanders expect Durban ‘siege’
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – Employ a siege mentality to upset the more
fancied Sharks in Saturday’s Super Rugby knockout clash at Kings Park, a member
of the Highlanders squad who beat the Stormers in a 1999 semi-final at Newlands
Speaking to the Otago Daily Times, loose forward Kelvin
Middleton warned the class of 2014: “They (the home spectators) are very close
to the ground there in Durban and very vocal.
“You get into a siege mentality ... you use that to make you
That 1999 game, played before a near-50 000 full house in
the heyday of the “Men in Black” era in Cape Town and with the hosts heavily
tipped to prevail, was the last occasion in which the Highlanders have won a
knockout fixture in South Africa.
They came from 11-0 down to triumph 33-18 and dramatically
snuff out the glow of a hitherto memorable campaign by a side led by Bob
Skinstad and then Corné Krige.
Middleton told the New Zealand newspaper the 1999 side went into a siege
mentality for the fixture, and that he anticipated the latest group doing the
“It was one heck of an experience ... we were up against the
odds. The South Africans did their best to try to intimidate us.
“When we got off the bus (at Newlands) we had to fight
through the crowd and there was plenty of pushing and they were pulling our
bags ... it was a torrid start to the game.
“We went into it with the approach that we had nothing to
lose and you can go that extra mile.”
Middleton said the long-haul travel issue for the
Highlanders should not be too great a hindrance.
“Things are so professional now ... you’re flying business
class the whole way and getting checked and monitored the whole time.”
He also believes the game being played at sea level, as was
the case in 1999, will help make the visitors’ task a little less formidable.
“If it was up at Loftus it would be a lot different; that
would be way harder.”
One thing Middleton may have overlooked in his recollection
of the 1999 match was that on the morning of the semi, rugby writer Mark
Keohane – then of Weekend Argus -- had broken the story of a bonus dispute
between the Stormers players and management and the attached possibility of a
Whether that affair had an effect on the favourites’
performance a few hours later remains a matter of speculation to this day.
Presumably there will be no such ructions in the Sharks camp
on Saturday ...*Follow
our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing