Stormers steel up for a brutal Blues clash
Physicality‚ some needle‚ if not a bit of mongrel is the scenario the Stormers are preparing for as they go in search of victory over the Blues at Newlands on Saturday.
The Stormers have won their first four matches but the challenge they face on Saturday will require them to show restraint‚ patience and fastidious belief in their systems.
The Blues are great disruptors and will attempt to create chaos and draw the hosts away from their strengths on Saturday.
Stormers coach John Dobson has seen enough of the Blues at Newlands over the years to know what is coming.
Dobson recalled a match in which Eben Etzebeth was riled to near breaking point and in which a brawl was inevitable.
Years earlier, former Springbok and Stormers captain Jean de Villiers was left with a permanent scar after Blues centre Rua Tipoki floored him with a savage punch in an off-the-ball incident in 2005.
De Villiers had 15 stitches, and 15 years later the scar under his right eye is still visible.
“They’ll bring physicality and they’ll be unpredictable‚” said Dobson of the visitors. “You can work out the Hurricanes and Jaguares’ shape but they are more off the cuff.
“The big threat is their big carrying forwards. They’ll have pick and goes and their backs are physical‚” said Dobson.
That is also what Dobson’s star player Pieter-Steph du Toit is preparing for.
“They will play smart‚ turn us and play it into the corners. They’ll play their offloading game. It will be momentum based and they’ll try and run us off our feet. They’ll try and live from our mistakes.”
Du Toit says although the visitors will want to play a counterpunching game‚ they too may be left vulnerable to quick turnover possession.
“If we exploit them on defence maybe we can score tries‚” noted Du Toit.
Although his team has been outperforming the opposition at scrum time Dobson is not enamoured of the rules that govern the set piece. It is an area in which the Stormers will want to emasculate the Blues.
“Scrums are one of the things we want to be the best in. I’m disappointed we lost two against the Jaguares.
“I don’t think it is great for rugby that teams get a penalty when they want‚ on their own ball. Unfortunately‚ those are the rules we are playing under at the moment.
“Scrums are getting a little frustrating for the game. There has to be a blatant collapse before a penalty gets awarded.”
Despite their winning start to the competition‚ Dobson‚ week after week, has had to front questions about his team’s lack of firepower in attack. They have the weaponry‚ it is just that they have misfired.
Dobson agreed that maybe his playmaking flyhalf Damian Willemse is trying too hard. “I think he does beat himself up‚” he said.
“It is not that he isn’t physical enough. Sometimes he is overly physical. He is being tackled five‚ six times a game and it becomes a problem for our attack because Herschel [Jantjies] starts looking for him and we need to do better there and alternate him more with Dillyn [Leyds].
“We are only four games into the season with a 21-year-old flyhalf and I’m not too fussed about the bigger picture.
“The problem for me is Jean-Luc [du Plessis] has made a difference every time he has come on. That’s more a pressure point than doubts I have of Damian.
“Jean-Luc is showing much more composure. We are probably underplaying Jean-Luc.”