De Villiers upbeat ahead of opener
Wed, 20 Feb 2013 11:25
Stormers captain Jean de Villiers is positive his team can make an early impact on the South African Conference when they face the Bulls at Loftus on Friday.
De Villiers, who is a veteran of eight Super Rugby tournaments, is no stranger to the first game of the season and the emotions that come with it.
"I have been playing for a while now and whenever you get to this time of the season the excitement picks up and you get excited by what lies ahead.
"We know it is going to be a tough start for us but you can see the change in mood at training and everyone is upbeat and looking forward to the game on Friday," the stand-in captain said.
The Stormers stalwart mentioned the importance as well as the ability of his side to play well away from home:
"The attitude towards playing away from home has changed a helluva lot and if you have a look at our track record over the last four to five years it's been really good away from home and if anything we have probably been disappointing at home in crucial games."
De Villiers also knows what it takes to go to Pretoria and win and understands the hardships of making the trip up to the highveld.
"Loftus will always be a challenge for any team going there, there is a lot that counts against you when you go up there. The altitude, the big crowd that comes in and they are a quality side."
The centre also mentioned: "We have had a good preseason and have done a lot of running and yes it is different playing up there and I think the fact that we are playing at night will help with that and when the adrenalin starts going you don't really think about that."
The Stormers who have dominated the South African conference for the past two seasons are well aware of the importance of this season in setting themselves up as consistently one of the top three teams in the tournament.
In 2013, De Villiers believes that the squad is as strong as it has ever been and is excited by the new additions who will be making their debuts this Friday.
"I think that he is a great player [de Allende] and you wouldn't think that he is playing in his first Super Rugby game. He enjoys what he is doing, he enjoys being in this environment and he is flipping good at what he does.
"He has got a really good pass and the same with Elton [Jantjies] at 10 opens up opportunities out wide and with the back three that we have got it gives us a lot of striking power out-wide as well," he explained.
De Villiers, who spent a lot of his career at No.12, will once again find himself at No. 13 and he feels that this is not an issue as he has played there a lot in the past eight months.
"I have played there before, I have played there for the Stormers there quite a bit and obviously a lot last year for the Boks and it is something I am comfortable with and looking at the players that we do have I think that is the best mix for this weekend."
The Springbok captain also said: "It take a load off Juan and myself knowing that there three guys like [de Allende], Jaco [Taute] who can slot in there, Bryan [Habana] can slot in there as well and the depth in our squad is much better this year."
He also made a comment on the loss of Schalk Burger: "Schalk will be missed whenever he is not playing, as a player, as a leader and just his brutality that he brings to the pack."
With this said, it gives the other forwards the opportunity to step into more senior leadership roles with a number of new and fresh players joining the Stormers.
The Stormers are going to have their work cut out for them when they travel to Pretoria and take on a Bulls team that have quietly gone about their pre-season business without much fuss. They have a strong squad and will be looking to take the scalp of the conference champions early in the season.
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