Edinburgh prop WP Nel believes Edinburgh can overcome poor knockout history and Stormers
Much has been made of Edinburgh Rugby’s poor record in knockout rugby but the Stormers have struggled similarly in play-off matches in recent years.
The two sides will meet on Saturday in the quarter-finals of the United Rugby Championship so something has to give in Cape Town.
Edinburgh’s win over Bath in April in the last 16 of the Challenge Cup was their first in a knockout tie for seven years. Prior to that they had lost one last-16 match, five quarter-finals and one semi.
The Stormers’ travails have come in the Super Rugby play-offs where they have won only one in ten – the 2010 semi-final against the Waratahs at Newlands.
Mike Blair was reluctant to dwell on Edinburgh’s record this week but the coach will take comfort from their victory over Bath, albeit they were eliminated in the next round by Wasps.
WP Nel has been around the club long enough to experience the knockout heartaches which proved to be Richard Cockerill’s Achilles’ heel during his time in charge.
“When it comes to knockout stages you have to be on it,” said the prop. “In the past we have been a little bit not well prepared.
“We have looked at how we prepare for this game. It is not just another game, it is a really important game for us, but we can't focus on the occasion.
“We need to focus on what we can do and what we have done this whole season. We just have to play rugby and impose our game on them.”
It’s been a long, hard season and at 36 Nel could be excused for turning his thoughts to the summer. But the veteran tighthead retains a determination to drive this team on and says the squad’s youthful vigour rubs off on him. He rates it the best Edinburgh side he has been involved with.
“We have good characters in our team and they keep the morale and energy high,” he said. “It is a nice young group as well. We feed off each other's energy at the moment and I think that's how we've grown as a squad. Everyone adds their bit to the squad and it all pays off. We are really looking forward to Saturday.
“It is really important for us as a whole club to have a good performance. It would mean a lot to the team and the club to win. All the focus is on Saturday. We know what is at stake so hopefully we can have a good performance.
“We are a tight squad, really good players. It is a great environment and the players have bought into what Mike has brought to the table. At this moment in time I think it is the best.”
Saturday’s match represents something of a homecoming for Nel who spent his formative years with Western Province.
“Everything in my career kicks off in Cape Town. I played a lot of club rugby there as well. Training here, I have had a lot of good flashbacks and memories of playing club rugby.
“It is a big game but it is also nice to know that this is where everything started. It will be nice to play here on Saturday and hopefully have a good game.”