WHEN the Stormers run out on to the pitch at Orlando Stadium tomorrow for their Super 14 final with the Bulls, it will be a proud moment for not only the players, but for their coach Allister Coetzee.
A players' man through and through, Coetzee has this season got the best out of a team that over the years has promised so much but often failed to deliver. Things have changed. With assistant coaches Robbie Fleck and Matt Proudfoot at his side, the coaching trio have worked on a defensive strategy that has seen them concede only 17 tries over a 14-week period - a record in Super rugby history.
Coetzee said: "This is a great occasion for South Africa. As well as being a history-making event it's one of those North-South derbies we all love to be involved in," Coetzee told Sowetan on the eve of the match.
Coetzee has managed his squad well this year. Players such as Joe Pietersen and Wicus Blaau have been nursed back gently from injury to make sure they are up for the game tomorrow and the new depth in Stormers is coming to the fore.
An advantage the coach has is the strong leadership that is beginning to come through in the side.
Guys like Tiaan Liebenberg, Peter Grant, Jaque Fourie and Andries Bekker have all had particularly strong seasons and will be looking to top off the Super 14 season with some silverware.
But leading the team on the field is talismatic captain Schalk Burger.
"For years Loftus has been their (the Bulls) fortress and we expect the same at Orlando Stadium on Saturday," Burger said yesterday.
The Bulls, led by captain Victor Matfield, will complete their preparations with a captains' training run at Pretoria University at lunchtime today.
Kickoff is at 5pm.