The South African teams must be ruthless when hosting the English and French to go the distance in their debut season in the Champions and Challenge cups, writes MARK KEOHANE.
History will be made this weekend when South African teams play in the Champions Cup for the first time. The DHL Stormers, Sharks and Vodacom Bulls are all involved in the top-tier of club rugby, while the Lions and Cheetahs are in the second-tier Challenge Cup.
The Sharks and Vodacom Bulls will both start their campaigns at home to Harlequins and Lyon respectively, while the Stormers are on the road to play Clermont in chilly conditions in France on Saturday.
In his TimesLIVE column, Keohane writes that South African teams must make homeground advantage count because points will be hard to come by in Europe.
“Hell, it isn’t going to be easy for any South African team in France or England. Be warned,” wrote Keohane.
“The warning of not necessarily expecting the best outcome for those travelling, doesn’t mean it is all gloom. Those same French and South African teams must travel to South Africa in the group stages of the Heineken and Challenge Cup European competitions.
“The key to European success – in a season that is so long and part of a calendar that includes other tournaments concurrently – is to win your home games emphatically, and to try and get a point on the road. An away victory is priceless en-route to a place in the play-offs.
“This is not a defeatist attitude; it is the reality of the strategy implemented in order to go the distance in tournaments like the Heineken Cup and the URC.
“But be measured in your expectation of any South African team travelling throughout these tournaments. This weekend it’s the Stormers diving into Clermont’s cauldron, where their home record is fantastic. They went 77 matches unbeaten between 2010 and 2014 and they have won 32 from 35 European Cup competition matches at home.”
Photo: Twitter: @THESTORMERS