Friday, January 27, 2006

Restoring "Pride"

Another cut & paste jobbie, this time from, from the pen of Jan de Koning

Stormers to restore 'lost pride'
Thursday January 26 2006
'It's important to start well'

The Stormers, after a dismal 2005 when they finished ninth on the Super 12 standings, are out to restore their lost pride in the inaugural Super 14 and reproduce the form that saw them reach the semi-finals in 1999 and 2004.

As the Cape franchise head into their second and final pre-season outing, against the Southern Spears in Wellington on Saturday, the coaching staff and players emphasised the importance of a solid start to the tournament.

That means getting off to a winning start in Round One, against the Cats in Johannesburg on February 11.

Hooker Hanyani Shimange, who will start the season as the Stormers' first choice hooker after a couple of years on the bench, made no secret of the fact that being on top of the Super 14 standings is their main priority.

"Yes, there is the issue of relegation in the South African set-up, but we're not concerned about that," Shimange said.

"We are looking forward to the season, and t is pretty exciting, because it's a fresh start for everyone ... with the new management team," the Bok hooker said.

"We are just hoping to bring the Stormers back to what they were a couple of years ago."

Asked how he feels about the possibility that he could even be first choice in the Bok team, with Bok captain and hooker John Smit still on the injury list, he said that is also not his focus at the moment.

"I've got a job to do on the field and that is to do well for the Stormers and hopefully we'll be No.1 team on the log," he said.

Bok star Schalk Burger, who will lead the Stormers against the Spears on Saturday, also said the Stormers have something to prove after last year's dismal showing in the Super 12.

"We've got a job to do this year," Burger said. "I'm very excited about this year, because we have a point to prove as the Stormers and we still got to play for our Springbok spots>"

He added that Saturday's outing in Wellington is vital in terms of the team's preparations.

"It is our last game before the Super 14 start and it is our last opportunity to try out a few things. We have to get our structures in place and build up some confidence."

But he warned that the Spears should not be underestimated.

"The Spears will give it a full go. They are a bunch of young, talented guys and it is an opportunity for them to steal the spotlight and become famous."

Coach Kobus van der Merwe also warned against the dangers of underestimating the Spears, South Africa's Super 14 team in waiting.

Despite losing 48-0 to the Cheetahs and 29-11 to the Cats, Van der Merwe feels they will have a lot to offer on Saturday.

"They're a very young team and even though they've only been together since the beginning of the season, they don't lack any enthusiasm and spirit," Van der Merwe said. "They gave the Cats a hard time last week in East London and you can't underestimate anyone.

"It is important for us to start well and this is the last contact game for us before the Cats [Round One of the Super 14], so we're not going to go out there and just chuck everything around.

"We want to play to our structures, and what we've practiced over last two weeks, so the guys can go into the Cats game with confidence.

"They [the Spears] have a point to prove in terms of their participation [in the Super 14 next year]. We know they'll come with everything they've got, and we won't underestimate them,"

By Jan de Koning

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