Province are 'spoilt for choice'
Allister Coetzee knows that with so much quality and experience at his disposal, his side could not be in a better position ahead of the play-offs.
Allister Coetzee knows that with so much quality and experience at his disposal, his side could not be in a better position ahead of the Currie Cup play-offs.
The defending champions have earned the right to play the rest of their games this season at Newlands by making it through the league phase of the Currie Cup unbeaten, and with a full-strength squad available the Province coach could not ask for more.
The last time the Cape side hosted a Currie Cup Final was in 2001, and after consecutive home Super Rugby semifinal defeats in 2011 and 2012 there is a definite sense that they 'owe' their faithful fans a chance to celebrate at Newlands.
Coetzee believes that having learned from those experiences at home and breaking their trophy drought by winning the Currie Cup in Durban last year, his team is more mature and better prepared to handle the pressure of playing knock-out rugby at home.
"Every team will struggle when they are very young in terms of playing in play-off games, but we have come a long way now and once you lose you learn from it and hopefully we have learnt from those two semifinals here.
"We have had some staunch support in Cape Town, people really come out and support the Stormers so we would like to make sure that Cape Town hosts a final next weekend," he said.
Although the consistency they have shown this season has given them valuable momentum, the biggest positive for Coetzee at this stage is the sheer number of quality players he has to choose from heading into the semifinal.
Having named a side with two Springboks on the bench and players such as Rynhardt Elstadt and Nizaam Carr not even making the match-day squad, Coetzee knows that there will be no excuses in their semifinal against the Lions this weekend.
"Compared to previous seasons or Super Rugby we are actually spoilt for choice. The big thing is you want your best players on the field.
"If you look at the spine of our team we have got Scarra Ntubeni who is really firing there, our No.8 is Duane Vermeulen, and you have got Demetri [Catrakilis] at 10 and Damian [De Allende] who is also firing at 12. Gio [Aplon] has been playing outstandingly throughout the competition.
"If you look at those players, it is experience throughout, so coupled with that also in tough games or play-off situations is the leadership and we are really blessed to have Schalk [Burger], Deon [Fourie], Duane [Vermeulen], Gio [Aplon] at the back and Jean de Villiers, experienced leadership in the team, so this is one for us to lose.
"We have had a great week of preparation and we want to go out there and make sure of the win which sets us up for a home final," he added.
He explained that with so much firepower, he expects the bench players to make a major impact, which should go some way to countering the usual second-half resurgence from the Lions.
"In the first half of the competition we couldn't really rely on our bench to make an impact but if it becomes part of your tactical plan then you are in a good position.
"I think we are well covered with Michael Rhodes as one of the locks, he has really done well in scoring tries, at ruck-time and also in his set-piece work. Then Schalk [Burger] has made a great impact from his first game and it is building every game, you can see he is eager to get stuck in, hopefully we can give him a bit more time this week we will see how it goes.
"Groomy [Nic Groom], the two props and Juan [De Jongh] at the back are set to make a big impact and their job is to match that second-half intensity of the Lions," said Coetzee.
While all of this sets Province up as favourites this weekend, there will be a fair amount of pressure on them to look as good at Newlands on Saturday as they do on paper and deliver the home final that their fans crave.
If they do stumble at this hurdle with so much in their favour it would be tougher to swallow than any of their previous defeats at home.
By Michael de Vries