It will be a special day for Dewaldt Duvenage on Saturday when he plays his 50th game for the Stormers. But if it turns out to be a wet day at Newlands, he and halfback partner Peter Grant will face a serious tactical test against the Waratahs.
Duvenage, who made his Super Rugby debut against the Bulls in 2009, will celebrate his 24th birthday next Tuesday.
The former Paarl Gym pupil has been at the heart of the Stormers’ charge to the semi-final and final in the past two years, and has improved significantly in his decision-making to complement his quick service from behind the forwards.
But he and Grant will be pushed hard by Waratahs halfbacks Brendan McKibbin and Berrick Barnes, who are both top rugby tacticians. Wallaby stalwart Barnes, especially, is known for his outstanding kicking out of hand, and with the expected wet conditions at Newlands tomorrow night, Duvenage and Grant will have a massive role to play.
“It’s a major achievement (50 caps) for Dewaldt, who is such a young guy,” said Stormers backline coach Robbie Fleck on Thursday.
“He has been in the set-up for a long time and has been a consistent performer for us, a solid performer. He is a key player and deserves it. Congratulations to him.
“Our guys have done extremely well, and one thing about Bash’s (Grant) game is that his tactical kicking has improved tremendously. He is up against one of the better tactical kickers out of hand, and I definitely think that the Waratahs are going to come with a big kicking game.”
He added: “You’ll find that this weekend we will stick to what’s worked for us, but we are definitely looking to add a few things to our game.”
Fleck’s “few things” refers to the Stormers’ attack, which has been blunt this year. Just 17 tries is unacceptable for a backline including Jean de Villiers, Juan de Jongh, Bryan Habana and Gio Aplon.
However, the Cape side are understandably pointing to their record of nine wins from 10 matches.
“What’s worked so far has been the conservative, Test-match approach,” said Fleck.
“But we also believe that the more the opposition analyse us, we are going to have to vary our game, and hopefully that will lead to some more tries.”
Waratahs coach Michael Foley said yesterday that hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau “may miss” the game because he had not yet recovered from concussion. The Wallaby No 2 will be given until today’s captain’s run to prove his fitness.
Stormers: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (capt), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Jebb Sinclair, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Steven Kitshoff. Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 De Kock Steenkamp, 19 Don Armand, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Burton Francis, 22 Gerhard van den Heever.
Waratahs: 15 Bernard Foley, 14 Tom Kingston, 13 Rob Horne, 12 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 11 Atieli Pakalani, 10 Berrick Barnes, 9 Brendan McKibbin, 8 Dave Dennis, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Rocky Elsom (capt), 5 Sitaleki Timani, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau/John Ulugia, 1 Benn Robinson. Replacements: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Kane Douglas, 19 Jono Jenkins, 20 Wycliff Palu, 21 Sarel Pretorius, 22 Daniel Halangahu. – Cape Times