Little comfort for Stormers
Cape Town - After an absence of five weeks, the depleted Stormers return to Newlands for their Super Rugby clash against the Reds on Saturday afternoon.
Usually the Newlands faithful would be cheering the Stormers' homecoming, but since the team has dropped out of the race for the playoffs, the occasion is likely to be distinctly anticlimactic.
The Stormers are one of Super Rugby's biggest drawcards and over the years their players have drawn great inspiration from the rousing support in Cape Town.
And while there is expected to be little optimism at Newlands for a Stormers win on Saturday, Reds coach Ewen McKenzie said this week the venue would be a factor worth considering.
"It boasts the largest and noisiest regular season crowds of the Super Rugby tournament and is a bloody hard place to play," McKenzie wrote on Thursday in his weekly column for an Australian daily newspaper.
"We need to keep the crowd quiet if we want to be successful - no easy task. It is such a busy and vibrant place."
Stormers captain Jean de Villiers said he wanted a win more than anything else, in order for the team to climb the Super Rugby standings. The Western Cape outfit were second from bottom in the SA conference, ahead of the weekend fixtures, just six points clear of rookies the Southern Kings.
"I have lived through both the good times and the dark times with the Stormers and Western Province, and having been through those dark times, I don’t want to go back there," said De Villiers.
"This week there is pressure on us to make sure we don’t go back to where we were in the 2005 and 2006 seasons when the Stormers were usually somewhere between the middle and the bottom position on the log."
Stormers coach Allister Coetzee shot down the likelihood of his side playing a relegation/promotion match if they finished last in the conference standings.
"I stay in the moment and that is what I am doing by focusing on the Reds for now," Coetzee said.
"The South African conference is a very tight affair and a tough one too but there are still a lot of games to be played.
"We understand where we are and it is not a good position to be in. We are not rolling over, we're not giving up, and that is giving me some satisfaction."