Gavin Rich - SuperSport
Johannesburg - Stormers captain Jean de Villiers believes that Saturday’s Vodacom Super Rugby derby against the Bulls at Newlands will be about making up the ground that was lost when last the two teams played each other last June.
On that occasion the Stormers simply failed to pitch, producing one of their most error ridden performances of the year and being unable to engage any kind of gear until the last minutes of the match.
By then the Bulls had gone more than a score ahead thanks to a lineout overthrow that had landed in Bulls scrumhalf Francois Hougaard’s hands for him to complete a soft try.
In the end the Stormers nearly stole it at the death as they swarmed all over the Bulls in the last 10 minutes, the first time in the game where they really played, and there was a feeling in the Stormers coaching staff that they should have been awarded a penalty when Bryan Habana was caught in front of the Bulls posts after a Stormers breakout off the last move of the match. There were three points separating the teams then and a penalty would have drawn the game.
But while the way the Stormers came back might provide some encouragement for them and their fans ahead of Saturday’s confrontation, and they did only lose by three points on a day where they could hardly have been poorer, De Villiers says it was a big step back.
“We went to Loftus last March and won there for the first time in a long while, and when we did that we felt we had gone through a psychological barrier. We put a big emphasis on away derbies last year, and a few weeks later we also beat the Sharks in Durban,” recalls De Villiers.
“But we did feel we ruined all the good work when we then came back to Cape Town and in a game where we were expected to win, we lost to the Bulls on our home ground. We are trying to improve every weekend and our aim is to learn from our mistakes. We did well at Loftus last year and in that sense I don’t think there is any longer any psychological barrier, but we took a step back at Newlands.
“We need to learn from the mistakes we made in that game. That is the ship we are in at the moment. I remember last year’s game as being a 50/50 contest. It was very close and in the end the teams were separated by that overthrow into Hougie’s hands. It will come down to the bounce of the ball again on Saturday. It will be another 50/50 game.”
When he was reminded of it, De Villiers got some confidence from remembering that there were many factors that worked against the Stormers last year. Apart from the fact they had just arrived home from a tough tour and were feeling the effects of the travel, they also started that game with their fourth choice flyhalf in the form of Kurt Coleman, who lacked experience.
“That is true, and it will be good to have Peter Grant, our first choice flyhalf, wearing the No 10 jersey, but no matter who is lining up for us, it still comes down to what we do on the day. Peter has a lot of experience and ability, but he needs to use that against the Bulls for it to be any good to us.”