The Stormers haven’t forgotten the words of Schalk Burger, spoken a year ago at Loftus as the Cape side huddled under the poles, the roar of the Loftus crowd stinging their ears in their third consecutive disgrace against the old enemy.
Dale Granger for IOL
Nothing can erase from history books the three successive defeats 75-14, 43-10 and 49-12 – that the Stormers have suffered to the Super 14 champions.
And with minutes to play in 2007, with the Stormers longing for the final whistle, the Cape side rallied around Burger the only Western Province player in recent times to get a standing ovation in Pretoria to hear some harsh words by the blond No 6.
“This is the last time this is going to happen. From now on the time for talking a big game is over and we will save our words for the field,” he said.
So don’t expect any fiery rhetoric from the Stormers this week as they prepare to kick off their Super 14 season against the Bulls on Saturday at Newlands and not just because they want to hit the ground running.
New coach Rassie Erasmus, a master in his Cheetahs days at playing the underdog card, has given instructions to his players and coaches not to fire the Bulls up.
Instead forward coach Gary Gold, a man articulate enough to be in politics, has been sending the opposite message to Pretoria, lauding the Super 14 champions as a class act.
Forget about the reality that for the first time in years, the Bulls will be without the world’s best second row combination in Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield, that former coach Heyneke Meyer will no longer have an influence or that the jury’s still out on his successor, Frans Ludeke.
Recent games against the Bulls have ended in heartbreak for the Stormers and, at the weekend, Gold said the pride of Pretoria was “entitled to be supremely confident”.
“One can’t help but praise them,” added Gold, perhaps overcooking the flattery, before echoing the words of Burger by adding that it’s “time to do our talking on the field”.
Instead, it’s been the Bulls who have been talking up a big game. For years, since the Stormers started their slide, northern teams have loved nothing more than ridiculing their southern rivals as a soft touch cushioned by the easy-going, playboy lifestyle of the Cape suggesting that the Stormers were too busy having their hair highlighted and shopping for designer clothes to be taken too seriously.
Bulls prop Richard Bands continued the theme recently. But this time the Springbok couldn’t resist saying that while the champs were enjoying the success of champagne these days, the Stormers could only drink beer.
Those words haven’t been lost on a Cape side preparing for Saturday’s battle with an intensity accompanied with all the secrecy associated with invasions of such importance.
Neither was the implied message from Bulls captain Fourie de Preez on a Stormers side who know they have to secure something this week.
The scrumhalf suggested that the Bulls weren’t taking the Stormers too seriously ahead of bigger fish to fry, saying: “The Super 14 is not about one game. It is about 15 games and that is where our focus lies.
“The north versus south game will always be big, but people have to realise that the competition is over 16 weeks.
“Maybe certain people are looking too much into the first game of the competition.
“All our focus can’t be on one game,’ said Du Preez. www.iol.co.zaTweet