Stormers captain Schalk Burger admitted that his side will have to 'play out of their skins' in order to overcome a highly motivated and star-studded Crusaders outfit in their semifinal at Newlands this weekend. 'Injured' Stormers play it safe | Meyer back at Loftus
The Crusaders managed to beat the Stormers at Newlands in May without the services of key All Blacks such as Richie McCaw, Dan Carter and Brad Thorn and the seven-times Super Rugby champions will bring a formidable play-off pedigree to Cape Town.
Despite the fact that the Crusaders have never won a play-off match in South Africa, they have still managed to claim victory in 17 of their 22 knock-out matches in Super Rugby. This year they also have the added motivation of representing a community which has been through terrible hardships as a result of natural disasters.
Burger has obviously got a tremendous amount of respect for what the Crusaders have achieved and expects them to come out all guns blazing on Saturday, but he pointed out that the Stormers have got plenty of motivation of their own.
The Stormers skipper told rugby365.com: "Obviously some terrible things have happened over there and at the end of the day it can either bring a side together or splinter them and they have pulled together remarkably well. I think they have done Christchurch proud so they are going to be determined, as are we.
"By now their trophy cabinet is pretty full, I think it is seven trophies that they have won already and we haven't won one. We obviously came pretty close last year and this year we have put ourselves in a position where we could win a trophy.
"So I think that both sides have got different motivations which should make for an exciting contest on the weekend," he explained.
Another potentially vital factor this weekend will be the weather, with 30 percent chance of rain forecast for Saturday. Burger believes that any champion side needs to be able to adapt to the conditions whatever they may be but added that a dry game would be preferable for both teams.
He commented: "We are under no illusions, they are a tough side and you don't become a champion side if you can't adapt to different conditions so if it happens to be raining on Saturday we will just have to play the conditions.
"It is going to be the same for both sides, Newlands can get pretty slippery so it is going to be tough to keep the ball through phases and it will become a territorial battle. The weather is obviously out of our control but I think both sides are hoping for good weather so it can be a bit of a spectacle as well," said the Stormers captain.
Burger is relishing the challenge of going up against his old foe Richie McCaw who will reportedly be fit for Saturday.
"I don't think that I have to say anything about him [McCaw] I think he is pretty well documented. He is probably the [best] loose forward to ever play rugby, we have had some good tussles in the past and I am sure this weekend will be no different," he said.
McCaw and Carter add a different dimension to any side they play for and Burger believes that the pair add a lot to the Crusaders team who managed to beat the Stormers without them earlier in the season.
He said: "If you want to talk about what Dan Carter and Richie McCaw can add, they are fantastic players they are world beaters who have won just about everything there is to win so they add a tremendous amount to a team like the Crusaders and that is the reason why they have made play-offs and won trophies for a long time.
"We know what we are up against and we will have to play out of our skins this weekend to get a good result," added Burger.
The Stormers have looked carefully at where they went wrong against the Crusaders last time out but Burger noted that things could take on a different complexion in the high pressure cauldron of a semifinal clash.
"It was a pretty tough match - they had some loose forwards playing on the wing and still beat us. But at the end of the day this is a semifinal, it is a once-off.
"In knock-out rugby pressure builds but from a players perspective we try to stay calm and cover all bases by making sure that the team is technically sound and well prepared," he said.
Much of that pressure comes from the expectations of the fans, not to mention the hype built up in the media, and Burger admitted that part of the challenge this week will be keeping calm and focused amidst all of the excitement.
"By the time Friday comes Cape Town is buzzing and groceries take a bit longer to do and pressure builds. But at the end of the day it is still a rugby game and we have got to go out there and do the basics well and put up a good performance to get a good result this weekend," said the Stormers skipper.
By Michael de Vries
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