he Hurricanes are relishing a full house against the Stormers at Newlands on Saturday and the “home away from home” Cape support base which All Black star Jerry Collins believes will boost his side in their Super 14 match.
Dale Granger reports on IOL.
The Canes, a cosmopolitan mix of mainly Samoans and Maoris, have always been one of the best supported teams in the Cape – a thorny issue between Springbok fans who have labelled their All Black-supporting compatriots traitors.
Cape support for the Canes dates back to the early years of Super rugby and was established by stars such as Collins, former All Black captain Tana Umaga and Jonah Lomu.
“It is one of the nicer places to be and the guys prefer coming to play here, where the people are much friendlier than in Pretoria. They’re pretty biased up there and you can’t say people in Pretoria are friendly, although they are friendly after the match.
“Down here it comes down to the style of rugby, which builds your popularity,” said
Collins has been to Robben Island, visited Nelson Mandela’s cell and seen the black car at the south end of the island with “All Blacks” painted on it in white letters.
“Yeah. It’s been a while since I went to Robben Island. But (the Cape) is more like a home away from home for us than when we go up north and dates back historically to the days of apartheid, when there were groups of All Black supporters here.
“As the game has gone global it has grown,” said the All Blacks hardman, who is set for a colossal battle with Schalk Burger on Saturday.
Hurricanes coach Colin Cooper said his side had emerged from the 50-22 smashing of the Bulls at Loftus without any injuries.
For the Stormers, however, lock Andries Bekker (groin) and prop JD Moller (ankle) are doubtful, while Luke Watson and Peter Grant sat out training yesterday with niggling injuries, but are expected to be fit.
The highly-rated Hurricanes’ All Black loose trio of Rodney So’oialo (41 Tests), Collins (48 Tests) and Chris Masoe (20 Tests) have, among them, more than double the number of Test caps than the entire Stormers back row – featuring Schalk Burger (39 Tests), as the most capped player in the squad and Luke Watson (one test).
The breakdown and the tackle won’t be for the faint-hearted at Newlands on Saturday and Collins said of the match-up: “Burger has been good coming back from that injury he had a couple of years ago and him and Luke Watson seem to be going really well under the guidance of Rassie (Erasmus).
“He’s got Schalk stepping and becoming more of a ball-player than in the past, when he was so good at smashing people.
“The coach is pretty smart and will make his career last longer as a result, as Schalk is no longer just a fetcher hitting the ball up the middle – although that role often depends on what regime you play under.
“The Stormers play a similar style to us and they’ve got loosies now and even props who like throwing the ball around,” said Collins.
Nevertheless, it is a brand-new Stormers loose trio this season with Watson switched to No 8 and rookie Francois Louw just cutting his teeth in Super rugby.
“Me, Rodney and Chris have known one another from college and we’ve been together for nine years now. They’re not the prettiest guys to look at in the morning, but we all complement one another and what the other guy is doing or thinking. That comes with time and being with one another,” said Collins.
Collins, nevertheless, played down his clash with Burger, saying: “He plays on the other side of the scrum, so I think I’ll leave him up to Massie (Chris Masoe).”
At Loftus, however, it was the Hurricanes midfield of Ma’a Nonu (18 caps) and Conrad Smith (12 caps) that humiliated the Bulls, cutting their backs to shreds to win 50-22 and sending the reigning champions off the field with the boos of their own fans ringing in the ears.
“We’ve been concentrating on winning back-to-back matches and winning more comfortably, which in this competition is hard to do. So it’s a big challenge for us this week – a very big one,” said Nonu.
“I’ve played with Conrad for the past four years and we complement one another. His work-rate around the field is unique and he is very fit. It’s a huge bonus to have someone like that next to you.
“But defences are getting strong and you can’t just run over them that easily, especially South African teams,” said Nonu.
“At the moment the Stormers backline is playing fantastic rugby. We watched them play the Chiefs and (Tonderai) Chavhanga scored a try where he beat everyone and that big Fijian (Sireli Naqelevuki) is playing well too and scored two good tries against the Cheetahs.”Tweet