Ruhan Nel says securing a home playoff spot is as much motivation for the Stormers as staying true to their roots, reports DEVIN HERMANUS.
John Dobson’s men lead the South African charge in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship on 47 log points, a 19-17 derby victory over the Vodacom Bulls two weeks ago moving the Cape side up to fifth in the URC.
The Stormers, who are also in first place in the SA Shield, are on a run of five successive wins thanks in no small part to a widely revered brand of attacking rugby.
However, the Capetonians have a tricky home game against Glasgow Warriors on Friday, with the Scottish side in third place in the overall standings.
Good news for the Stormers is that injured co-captain Salmaan Moerat and star fullback Warrick Gelant are back at training and will be assessed ahead of Dobson’s team announcement on Thursday.
Ahead of Friday night’s clash, Nel told media: “We don’t want the occasion to determine the outcome, so we’ll approach the game the same … we’ll want to create the opportunities for the likes of Manie [Libbok] to exploit.
“We don’t really want to go away from that attacking style, it’s our identity; the nature of the Bulls game just didn’t allow for it, but the coaches are allowing us to play what we see and the guys are programmed to run into space and not be put in a cage.”
In Super Rugby, the Stormers traditionally drew the biggest crowd of the local franchises – averaging 33,000 per home game at Newlands – and South Africa’s flagbearers had in excess of 12,000 fans for the first north-south derby in the URC at Cape Town Stadium.
Nel said: “From an empty stadium to 2,000 people was a big boost, so to go to over 12,000 [for the derby] – it felt like more than that.
“It’s incredible how the fans have got behind us, and hopefully we can continue to give them good memories at the new stadium. A big motivating factor is qualifying for a home quarters – possibly a semi – for the crowd.”
Nel has won two World Sevens Series titles with the Blitzboks, and a Currie Cup at Western Province, yet harbours a burning desire to lift silverware with the Stormers.
“For me, being here and having started with Western Province and winning the Currie Cup, to then being down with the Stormers … we really want this,” he added.
“From where we were a year or two ago, taking some heat, to now potentially having a home quarter-final, we’re embracing the challenge. The last few games are top-of-the-conference clashes, so we’re really privileged to be in this position.”
The 30-year-old centre is also grateful to have started an impressive 14 of the Stormers’ 15 matches this season: “It’s been a long season, but very enjoyable. We had a nice break [over Easter], so we can empty the tank at the end.
“The body is feeling it a bit, but I really appreciate the game time, as well as Dobbo trusting me every week.”
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