Cape Town – The pre-match comments by both the Stormers and Waratahs camps suggest there will be a sharp focus on breakdown play at Newlands on Saturday evening (kick-off 7.10pm).
Both teams have played second fiddle to opposition teams in recent matches at the breakdowns. This has left them frustrated because invariably their possession has been slowed down appreciably.
Stormers' stand-in captain Duane Vermeulen is looking for an improved performance from the team at breakdown time. “We've seen on the (recent) tour that we haven't been as successful at the breakdown,” said Vermeulen.
“We've got our own certain places on the field where we are definitely going to stick our heads in the ruck, but when it's in our red or damage zone we are definitely not going to stick our heads in.”
Vermeulen feels it may be necessary to ensure that more players arrive at breakdowns to ensure the Stormers will enjoy the edge.
“We are going to try our best just to get the numbers game and win the numbers game, because they are very direct. We want to get more numbers on our feet,” said Vermeulen.
Waratahs' loose forward Michael Hooper said the Aussie tourists learnt a few lessons from their game against the Sharks last week. One was the need to be more clinical at breakdowns.
“The Sharks got into our breakdown quite well last week, and through that and handling errors we weren't able to hold onto our ball,” said Hooper.
“We need to ensure that we're not overstocking breakdowns and getting the right numbers there.”
The Waratahs tried to be hugely physical last week against the Sharks and came off second best. Vermeulen feels the Waratahs are likely to settle for a more direct approach at Newlands.
“The Waratahs are usually a more direct side. You can call them the Bulls side of Australia so this is just going to be man-on-man and you've just got to draw the line and say 'listen, this guy is not getting past me',” said Vermeulen.
“This is a time to man-up and ... for the youngsters coming in to play their first game at home for the Stormers, this is a good time for them to show their value for the team.”
The fact that the Stormers are finally playing a home game could make matters more difficult for the Waratahs.
“It's a bad time (to play the Stormers), if anything,” said Hooper. “It's a massive game for them. They'll want to win in their stadium in front of their crowd. They had a hard trip (on tour) and will be coming back to rip in.”
Refereeing decisions have played more of a role more than usual in matches this season but Vermeulen has no intention of bothering the match official during the game.
“If you just focus on the game and what you need to do, then those little matters won't bother you,” said Vermeulen. “If you start worrying about that, then your mind has shifted from what you need to do and you are not 100 percent in the game.” – Sapa