Although six places separate the Stormers and Benetton on the United Rugby Championship (URC) table, the Cape Town-based side’s utility forward Ernst van Rhyn is not underestimating the Italian outfit ahead of the teams’ clash in Stellenbosch on Friday.
The Stormers currently occupy third position in the standings while Benetton are in ninth place but Van Rhyn is wary of his opponents, who have several Italian internationals in their ranks and put in a strong display in their 43-33 defeat against the Sharks in Durban last weekend.
Benetton are not just any other team
“They are a quality team. They shocked the Vodacom Bulls in the Rainbow Cup final,” he told the Stormers‘ official website. “I think everyone realised that this isn’t just any other team. It is a team that wants to compete and win.
“We also lost our opening game of the Vodacom URC last season in Treviso. They are tricky and have some quality players with good experience. They are well-balanced and have built well over the past few years.
“They play some exciting rugby, as well. If you look at the game against the Cell C Sharks, you can see they want to run the ball and play an expansive and exciting game.
“That makes them dangerous. A lot of their forwards play for the national team, so they also have a decent pack. They are far past the stage when you could call them underdogs.
“We will have to make sure we are at our best. These last two weeks have been focusing on us and where we can be better from the past two games. We will be ready and expect a great game against a quality side.”
Playing in Stellenbosch
Friday’s clash sees the Stormers returning to the Danie Craven Stadium in Stellenbosch for the first time since their 38-15 victory against Connacht in a Round Two URC clash there last September.
Van Rhyn has played at that ground on several occasions for Stellenbosch University in South Africa’s Varsity Cup competition and said it’s always an enjoyable experience to run out at the venue.
“It’s definitely a special memory that you hold onto,” he said. “A full Danie Craven on a Monday evening, packed with students, is a unique rugby ground. I had the privilege of lifting the Varsity Cup there in front of a full stadium in 2018.
“What makes it special is that if you go back in history, a lot of Springboks were produced there. It’s a very prestigious club in South African rugby, so it’s quite special to know that you are walking in those footsteps.
“It has a unique vibe. The setting is incredible, with the mountain behind you and the sun setting late in the afternoon. So I am looking forward to Friday and hopefully, I can add to that list of memories.”
The 25-year-old, who is equally at home at lock or on the flank, is hoping to add to his great memories of the Danie Craven Stadium when the Stormers go up against Benetton.
“Playing at the DC was where I got my first taste of senior rugby with Varsity Cup and where I spent four years studying,” he added.
Captained the Stormers against Connacht
“I also had the privilege to captain the team in the opening game of the Vodacom URC against Connacht at Danie Craven. So it’s almost come full circle.
“We are looking to make a good end to the league campaign. Hopefully we can make some more history and build more memories.”