Stormers ready to grind out final
Allister Coetzee believes his Cape Town Stormers are going to have to be at their best next Saturday if they are to have a chance of taking the Super 14 crown from the Pretoria Bulls. The two sides will meet in the Super 14 final in Soweto, with the Bulls having home advantage thanks to topping the regular season table and then comfortably disposing of the Canterbury Crusaders 39-24 in their semi-final.
The Stormers were equally impressive in their 25-6 triumph over the New South Wales Waratahs in their last-four encounter on Saturday. But with the reigning champions now the only thing standing between his side and glory, Coetzee, the Stormers coach, is aware of the task facing his men. "We are excited and it is a great achievement for the Stormers," he told AFP in the post-match press conference.
"This is the side the media mocked in the past as a side that flatter to deceive and are a great team on paper. "But this team has matured and we're happy that we have become part of history. "This Stormers team - when they have ball in hand - they are something special. "But we have work to do next week and we respect the Bulls. They are the best team in the Southern Hemisphere and we are excited to have this opportunity.
"If you want to be champions in this competition you have to beat the Bulls, and that's what we have to do." Of the victory over Waratahs, which saw Peter Grant, their fly-half, kick 20 points, he added: "We had to grind it out. "The Waratahs started well and we had to absorb and adapt. We put them under pressure to concede penalties and it shows at the end of the day on the scoreboard. The players showed a lot of composure."
Coetzee said the final, in the unusual setting of the Orlando football stadium in Soweto, outside Johannesburg, was "a fantastic opportunity". Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, the Bulls usual home ground, is not available because of the upcoming football World Cup. "The Bulls have been the form side this season," said Schalk Burger, the Stormers captain of next weekend's opponents. "We have been trying to follow in their footsteps but anything can happen in a final."
He added: "It's a fantastic feeling to be travelling up to Soweto next week. It's going to be tough but we are looking forward to that." The semi-final victory for the Bulls meant a lot to Victor Matfield, their captain. He completed 100 Super 14 appearances in the game against the Crusaders, and is delighted to be one game away from lifting the Super 14 trophy for a second successive season. "This ranks among the most memorable experiences of my rugby career - coming to Soweto, reaching 100 appearances and defeating a great Crusaders team," he said.
"We realised that starting slowly and giving our opponents a 15-point lead would be suicidal and so we set out to take control from the kick-off and it worked. Resting our top players last weekend also worked in our favour." * Compiled by Graham Caygill, with agencies
Published: May 24, 2010 04:00 AM