Steve Walsh in the spotlight

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Referee Steve Walsh.

Cape Town – Despite a highly controversial performance in a Stormers match two weeks ago, Steve Walsh has been appointed as the referee for Saturday’s clash against the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday.

Stormers coach Allister Coetzee confirmed from Sydney on Monday that Walsh will be the man in charge, and it surely has to be something that the Cape team are not looking forward to.

They have been on the wrong side of the referee’s whistle on both matches on tour, against the Hurricanes in Palmerston North, and the Blues last week. They managed to beat the Canes by two points, but went down 18-17 to the Blues in Albany.

But the victory over the Hurricanes was in spite of Walsh’s poor officiating. He was lenient on the home side’s constant infringing at the breakdowns, failed to dish out a yellow card to prop Ben Franks for punching Rynhardt Elstadt, and then moments later, again didn’t send off Franks for 10 minutes for collapsing a maul a few metres from his own tryline.

Walsh also overlooked a few forward passes and knock-ons by the Hurricanes, and Coetzee wanted to speak to him sometime last week to discuss the match, but Walsh was not available as he had to fly to Dunedin to referee the Highlanders-Sharks match at the weekend.

Walsh was also under the microscope somewhat following the Sharks game, as he refused to give them a penalty try in the last few minutes as the Highlanders made repeated infringements. The Kiwi team also made a vital, but questionable turnover at a breakdown during that period, but Walsh allowed the home team to get away with it.

Coetzee is sure to engage with Walsh sometime this week in Sydney, although he was rather diplomatic about the Stormers getting a raw deal from the referees on tour. Glen Jackson similarly made a number of dubious decisions during the Blues game, the most critical being allowing Ali Williams to “swim” around a well-set Stormers maul and letting him tackle Deon Fourie at the back.

“We are awaiting a response from (Sanzar game manager) Lyndon Bray (about Jackson’s performance), but further than that, we are expecting nothing else other than a few differences in opinion, and what we did right and where we went wrong,” Coetzee said on Monday.

“There have been quite a few coaches who have expressed their unhappiness with some referees, but there is nothing you can do other than to move on. The next match is the most important match for us. I think we need to move on and forget about it, and just learn from last week’s game. That was our theme today as well, and it’s over. The next match is very important, and we must get it right to win the next game.”

Coetzee is set to stick with the same team that went down to the Blues to keep alive the Stormers’ faltering playoff hopes, apart from lock Eben Etzebeth, who will replace the injured De Kock Steenkamp. Joe Pietersen, Dewaldt Duvenage and Gary van Aswegen’s tactical kicking and general play was not up to standard in Albany, but the coach said that he is unlikely to make too many changes.

“Eben will have to start, that’s the obvious change. Continuity is important for us also, and looking at the mistakes, we want to cut that and keep things simple, and get the continuity going again. So, I haven’t decided yet whether the rest of the team will be the same or not, or whether there will be more changes,” Coetzee said.

“I can’t, for every little challenge, make a change in the team. Continuity is going to be very important for us, like I said, and we have all our players available. I think one has just has to have common sense here.

“It was only the execution that was the problem, and it is not as if these okes haven’t kicked before. Against the Hurricanes, the kicking was phenomenal. So, after a couple of mistakes in kicking executions, you want to change again – I don’t think that’s the right thing to do. One has to use common sense, and continuity is important.”

The Stormers waded through the video of the Blues game yesterday, as well as examining the Waratahs’ 72-10 annihilation of the Southern Kings, and felt that they had done well in Albany. And they are not going to pay special attention to hot-stepping Tahs fullback Israel Folau, who cut the Kings defence apart in Port Elizabeth.

“That’s really a powerful display by the Waratahs, and they showed their intent of really physically dominating. They are a good side, and we are aware of their strengths. We have watched it, and they will be coming with confidence back to Sydney after that display against the Kings,” Coetzee said.

“There are no special plans for no one. We will stick with our systems and our structures, and just respect it even more this week, in terms of staying in our system – making sure that we are not hiding the system, but that we make sure of our one-on-one tackles within our system. Then we should be fine.

“We’ve had a thorough review of our match against the Blues, and it was just amazing to see how many opportunities we created. Where we competed in certain positions, we scored points easily.

“It’s just the wasted chances that we addressed and dealt with. Our defence was still fantastic, our set-piece went well, so we need to make sure that we build on that and be more accurate.” – Cape Times


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