Gavin Rich - SuperSport
Johannesburg - A lot of those people who are tipping the Crusaders to overcome the debilitating effects of travel and a fired up Stormers team in their own backyard to advance to the Super Rugby final are doing so because of the emotion the Kiwi side are playing on because of the earthquakes that have ravaged their region.
One man though who does not quite buy into the theory that the Crusaders have a sort of destiny working for them this year – they topped the New Zealand conference and came third on the overall log playing all their games away from home – is Stormers captain Schalk Burger.
And one reason he is not so sure the Crusaders will be more motivated than his own team is because he has been comparing the respective trophy cabinets.
“Their trophy cabinet is quite full – what have they won, something like seven trophies in the last couple of years,” said Burger.
“Our trophy cabinet is still quite empty, we have made a lot of progress in the past year or so but we still haven’t nailed down a major trophy. We came very close to it last year before falling twice at the last hurdle, and now we are in a position where we can make up for that and go all the way. In a sense we are getting a second chance after blowing it last year and we want to make it count.
“Both teams are in different situations, both have different reasons why they want to win, but in the end I am not sure that one side wants it more than the other. We have worked hard this season and we want all that hard work to pay off for us.”
Asked if he sensed that the whole country was now getting behind the Stormers after being against them earlier in the year because they wanted to see their own teams do well at the expense of the Cape side, Burger said he hadn’t really thought about it.
“It was different last year because the Bulls were still in the competition when we played the semi-finals so there were two South African sides to support, but we weren’t able to watch their semi-final because it was played just before our game kicked off,” he said.
“It was good for us that a Bulls win meant we got to play the final in South Africa, which in a sense was like a home final, but we didn’t win it. We feel we have learned a lot since then and grown a lot since then so this year we hope to go one better than then. But our priority right now is to win Saturday’s game. That is all we are thinking of.
“The Crusaders mount a massive challenge, we are going to have to be very accurate and clinical to beat them. It is not about the World Cup or anything like that. If the Springboks face the All Blacks in a World Cup semi-final later this year that is a game we will start thinking about when we get to Auckland. Right now it is about the Stormers against the Crusaders.”