Siya Kolisi says Western Province will still be highly motivated to give Newlands a fitting farewell despite playing behind closed doors. DYLAN JACK reports.
A theme that has permeated both the Stormers and Western Province’s 2020-21 season has been the farewell to Newlands, one of the world’s oldest rugby stadiums. The team is set to move to Cape Town Stadium at the end of this season.
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa has meant that Province, like every other South African team, has played behind closed doors last year and this year. This has certainly made it awkward for the players, who would have wanted a celebratory atmosphere every time they run out at the stadium.
Kolisi admits the buildup to their Currie Cup semi-final against the Sharks on Saturday – which could potentially be the last time the team plays at Newlands – has been strange.
‘To be honest, it has been tough not seeing and not anticipating how many of the Newlands faithful will be out here,’ Kolisi said. ‘It has been tough without them this whole season.
‘What I can tell you, is that our motivation is even stronger. We obviously feel that it has been a long time since we have given the faithful something to smile about. The people in Cape Town who have been so loyal to us and have always been here through the roughest periods.
‘We have spoken about it, that there have been so many players who have gone before here at Newlands. It means so much to so many people.
‘We are the group who have been chosen to be playing and closing the chapter at Newlands. That’s a huge honour already for us. We have been speaking about it and will speak about it tomorrow as well. Whatever happens, we are going to be the team to play the last game at Newlands. We want to make sure that we are remembered for something good come Saturday.’
Western Province have a match-day squad packed with players who have been in similar high-pressure situations before. There are 2019 World Cup-winning Springboks in Bongi Mbonambi, Frans Malherbe, Herschel Jantjies and Kolisi himself. Meanwhile, the likes of Damian Willemse, Ruhan Nel, JD Schickerling, Ali Vermaak and Chris van Zyl – who was captain on the day – were all part of the last Province team to win the Currie Cup against the Sharks in Durban.
‘I think it’s been great. Everybody who has played in a big playoff game has played their part this week,’ Kolisi said on the influence of those players. ‘A guy like Chris van Zyl who has lifted the Currie Cup before and the guys who have played in this team with our coach Dobbo [John Dobson] has helped us quite a lot.
‘It is all going to matter on Saturday when those moments come. Our leadership group is in a good place and we know what to do. For the rest of the team, the important thing is knowing the plan. That’s a message we have been driving. If you are not sure, just do your job and everything will fall into place.
‘If guys are feeling a little under pressure in the game, we will have conversations with them. The most important thing is focusing on the small things that we must do.’
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