The Stormers are delighted to have won the South African Shield and secured a home quarter-final, but captain Steven Kitshoff knows there is still plenty of hard work ahead when the Vodacom United Rugby Championship playoffs get under way in June. DYLAN JACK reports.
The Stormers left it late in Llanelli as Ruhan Nel’s 79th-minute try gave the visitors a bonus-point 26-21 victory against a gutsy Scarlets team.
The win secured second place for the Stormers who finished top of the South African Conference – they will now host a quarter-final and, if they advance, a semi-final in Cape Town.
Speaking after the match, Kitshoff said the character of the team shone through in the final 10 minutes of the match on Saturday.
“Scarlets really played well. They put us under a lot of pressure. Their scrummaging and mauling was top notch. We made a hell of a lot of errors, either kicking the ball straight into touch or losing it at the breakdown.
“The character of the team just came through in the last 10 minutes. We kept on hitting the wall, until the cracks started to show and that’s how we got over the line at the end.”
Having finished the recent run of fixtures in Cape Town unbeaten, Kitshoff said lifting the South African Shield was a deserved reward for his teammates.
“Winning the Shield was the first step and for us to actually build on the season that we are having, especially after that home stretch and the confidence and momentum that we got, the silverware today is amazing. You can feel the buzz in the changeroom afterwards and on the field, how happy it made the guys. There was a lot of hard work and sacrifice that went into this stretch of the campaign.
“But it is just the first step. We know what playoff rugby is like. I think we got a little bit of a glimpse of it today. There are some golden opportunities laying ahead for us.”
The Stormers will host Edinburgh in the quarter-finals on either 3 or 4 June and, should they progress, will take on either Ulster or Munster at Cape Town Stadium.
Kitshoff added that while his team will savour their achievements this far into the campaign, they know that tough challenges await when the playoffs get underway.
“Anything can happen in playoff rugby. That’s the beauty of it. Having a home quarter-final makes the road a bit easier, but playoff rugby is playoff rugby. A decision going for or against you, a penalty for not rolling away and it’s three points against you and you can lose that game by a point.
“We will celebrate tonight. But we will park it on Monday and start focusing on the playoffs. We can’t harp on too much about it. There is still a job to do. There is still a quarter-final to play. So we will have a couple of beers tonight, but then we have to focus on the next job.”
Winners = Grinners 😀
— DHL Stormers (@THESTORMERS) May 22, 2022
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