Stormers gear up for Super Rugby semifinal

The Stormers hope to learn from the mistakes they made last season when they host the Sharks in their Super Rugby semi-final at Newlands on Saturday. (Gallo)

The Stormers hope to learn from the mistakes they made last season when they host the Sharks in their Super Rugby semi-final at Newlands on Saturday. (Gallo)

While the Sharks arrived in Cape Town two days earlier than their usual schedule in an effort to fight off travel fatigue, the Stormers had a bye last week ahead of this weekend's home playoff.

Last year the Western Cape outfit had also enjoyed a week's break ahead of a home semifinal but they were outplayed 29-10 by the Crusaders and captain Jean de Villiers said they had taken an alternative approach this week.

"I feel that the preparation is totally different from last year," De Villiers said.

"I think we are in a much better space than we were last year.

"We have had a week off from playing even though we did train.

"I think psychologically, mentally and physically the guys are ready.

"Hopefully we can get a good start this time around and learn from the mistakes that we made in the past."

Unanswered questions
Sharks coach John Plumtree was uncertain how the Stormers' break would affect their performance.

"It's one of those questions that is very hard to answer. It's a million-dollar question," Plumtree said.

"The Stormers had no choice, nor did we, so I can probably only accurately answer that after the game."

Plumtree's side travelled to Brisbane last week, earning a 30-17 victory over the Reds to book their place in the semifinals.

De Villiers said the Stormers could not bank on the Sharks' fatigue providing an advantage ahead of the crunch derby clash.

"When you get to this stage of the competition you overcome anything that might make you not play well," De Villiers said.

"Even though they have had to travel, the motivation is there.

"You are at the business end of the competition and you are playing to win the trophy."

Bracing for the encounter
The Stormers, who finished top of the overall table this season, have reached the Super Rugby playoffs for three years in succession.

They are still in search of their maiden title and Plumtree said his players were bracing for the encounter.

"I guess the big thing for [the Stormers] is that they have a real belief in what they do," Plumtree said.

"Their leadership is really strong, because they go out there playing consistent rugby week in and week out and that's why they finished on top of the conference.

"They are in a situation where if they beat us then they get a home final, which is fantastic."

De Villiers felt the Sharks, who have reached the Super Rugby final in three previous seasons but have also failed to lift the trophy, were in line for Super Rugby greatness, provided they could overcome the challenge of three playoff clashes on the trot.

"If they should go on to beat us on Saturday and they travel to New Zealand and beat either the Crusaders or the Chiefs over there, I think that would probably be the best effort from a team in the history of Super Rugby," De Villiers said.

"The unfortunate thing is that they are capable of doing that.

"It is a lot to play for. They are playing to be the best and so are we, so there is a lot on the line and it makes for a great game on Saturday." – Sapa