Former Springbok Stefan Terblanche has praised the South African teams for overcoming the travel and weather challenges they’ve faced up north and to still keep pushing for glory in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship and Heineken Champions Cup.
Speaking after the Vodacom Bulls, Cell C Sharks and DHL Stormers all made it through to the Last 16 of the Heineken Champions Cup in their first season in this competition, Terblanche said it showed exactly the DNA of a South African rugby team.
“In general, South African teams like to be the underdog. Very few South African teams like to go into games with everything going their way and being complete favourites to win. They certainly like a challenge,” said Terblanche.
“South African teams are used to having significant challenges when it comes to logistics and travelling, and I think they’ve all handled it really well so far. I’m delighted for all three teams. The weather change is a massive difference, and our players are also still getting used to playing on synthetic pitches up north. It’s huge and another whole new experience they need to prepare themselves for. But we always knew this was going to be the case. A few of our results up north could be better, but all of our teams are still playing some decent rugby up there. And for three out of three SA teams to go through to the Last 16 of the Heineken Champions Cup is a pretty decent result.”
When it comes to a challenge, Terblanche admits the Vodacom Bulls in particular will certainly have one on their hands as they prepare to face French giants Toulouse in their Round of 16 clash in March.
“That’s a heavyweight team for the Vodacom Bulls to face. They are the most successful team in this competition and it will be very hard for the Bulls to go there and win that game. The conditions up north at the end of March will definitely still play a role. I think that’s one thing South African supporters need to understand, that these Northern Hemisphere teams are incredible competitors, especially at home. They are well coached and have a great supporter base in Europe. Every match against them is hard work.”