HAVING ended the regular season ranked seventh in the URC table, Edinburgh face the daunting task against a Stormers side who charged to second in the league ladder with one draw followed by seven wins on the trot since the end of January. 

The sides drew 20-20 when they met at the DAM Health Stadium back in October, but both teams have evolved and progressed since those early days in this inaugural URC season, and the form book dictates that the Cape Town outfit will start as big favourites on home soil.  

Not that Nel is paying much attention to what the bookmakers think. 

“Favourites? I don't know about that,” he retorts. “They have home ground advantage and that obviously counts for a bit. I don't think it is a surprise because they have top-quality players.  

“They have plenty to choose from. It is good for the competition to see them up there. When they were near the bottom there was a lot of chat about why they are here, but it is good tough competition and good to see them up there. Saturday is going to be a good battle. 

“I think it's really exciting for us as a club,” he added. “From where we started the season to where we are now, we have come together as a squad, and it is a really big opportunity for us to take on a very good Stormers side on Saturday. 

“We have good characters in our team who keep the morale and energy high,” Nel stressed, when asked whether his 36-year-old bones are wearying after a long hard season which kicked off with a pre-season match against Newcastle Falcons on 11th September.  “We feed off each other's energy and I think that's how we've grown as a squad. Everyone adds their bit 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 on Saturday. It would mean a lot to the team and the club to win. We know what is at stake so hopefully we can have a good performance. 

“We are a tight squad, really good players. It is the tightest and best environment I've seen for a while. The players have bought into what Mike has brought to the table. At this moment in time, I think it is the best.” 

South African born and raised Nel adds that he has enjoyed revisiting old haunts this week, during the build-up to Saturday’s match, but doesn’t feel like he has anything more to prove than any other of his Edinburgh team-mates. 

“I played under-21 in Newlands [Stadium] for Western Province. Everything in my career kicks off in Cape Town. I played a lot of club rugby there as well,” he recalled. “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 and everything kicked off.  

“So, it will be nice to play here on Saturday and hopefully have a good game – but I think I'm probably past that stage of showing people what I've done or what I could have done.  

“I'm really glad for what Edinburgh have done for me and I just want to be at my best on Saturday for the team. I don't have any point to prove to anyone anymore. 

“When it comes to knock-out stages you have to be on it,” he concluded. “In the past, we have been a little bit … not well prepared for these games. So, 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.”