I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but here it is anyway – the Stormers have to employ a tight, conservative gameplan in the first half of the competition if they hope to get anywhere in Super Rugby this year. How’s that for an opening statement in my first column of the new rugby season.
Okay, maybe it’s because there has been no proper rugby to watch over the last few months (the turgid Six Nations doesn’t count) that I’ve lost all sight of the principles of the game of rugby union, which is about scoring tries and making good use of the ball in hand.
But they say you have to cut your suit according to your cloth, and make no mistake, the cloth that Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has to work with for 2014 is not of the best quality.
Western Province played some refreshing rugby in last year’s Currie Cup, getting the mix just right between accurate tactical kicking, taking the ball through phases and attacking the defence with their strike-runners.
But there are just too many holes in this Stormers side for them to attempt to play the kind of rugby we all know they are capable of and have produced in patches over the last few years.
The major problem comes in the backline, where the departures of Bryan Habana, Gerhard van den Heever, Joe Pietersen, Dewaldt Duvenage and even Elton Jantjies have left serious dents in the side. Now add further injuries to Jaco Taute, Juan de Jongh and Cheslin Kolbe, as well as the delayed arrival of Peter Grant from Japan, and you get the picture ...
The Stormers should surely have signed a few backline players as cover.
There have been foreign names bandied about in the media in recent months, but there’s still no one requiring a Newlands Stadium tour.
And it doesn’t stop there. There’s no Andries Bekker to rule the Super Rugby skyline, and Eben Etzebeth is out injured until May. At least Argentine Test lock Manuel Carizza has been brought in to help with the lineouts, although that is usually an area of strength for the Stormers.
So for once, Stormers fans probably shouldn’t be too hard on their favourite team, at least in the first few rounds of the competition, for not often being able to play it wide.
They would’ve expected to be able to beat the Lions, although not easily, at Ellis Park on Saturday in their opener, but now that is not as simple as it looks.
New flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff kept the Lions in the game against the Cheetahs on his Super Rugby debut on Saturday, and eventually won it for his team with a brilliant display of goal-kicking and a superb match-winning drop goal.
The Johannesburg side have often proven difficult opponents for the Stormers at Ellis Park, and Saturday will be no different.
So, with the Cape side lacking the quality of past teams to have travelled to the City of Gold, Jean de Villiers and his players should look to minimise mistakes and not give away penalties, and provide opportunities for Demetri Catrakilis to kick his own three-pointers (he can’t afford to miss any kicks).
The forwards are still strong and imposing, especially the loose trio of Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger and Siya Kolisi. So the scrums, lineouts and breakdowns will be taken care of.
Go to Joburg, get the win and get out of there. With a “tour of hell” looming in a few weeks, the Stormers just have to win their first two games in South Africa (the second being against the Hurricanes at Newlands). Otherwise, their tournament could be over before it’s even started.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
@CoryJane1080: What’s up South Africa?? So good to be back after missing out last year... Time to get me a passion fruit & coke... #Very_Nice
WHO TO FOLLOW
@ManuchoCarizza: See what the Stormers’ new lock from Argentina gets up to in Cape Town.
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