CAPE TOWN – Stormers attack and skills coach Paul Feeney might be a bit concerned about the Crusaders’ “All Black-laden” forward pack, but he has no worries about his own backs’ ability to combat their “bigger” Crusaders counterparts.
Speaking from New Zealand on Tuesday, Feeney made a special mention of Cheslin Kolbe, who has been featuring at right wing for the Stormers this year, and Dillyn Leyds, who has been in sizzling form at left wing after missing out on the greater part of last year due to injury.
And why shouldn’t Feeney be confident about these “smaller” backs? After all, they have shown that skill is what counts.
Not only the outside backs, but every single one of them – from scrumhalf Jano Vermaak to fullback SP Marais.
“We’ve got size in our backline. So if we have to cover the ball up ... (centres) Dan du Plessis and EW Vijoen are doing a good job," Feeney said.
“You just run different shapes depending on where your size is.
“Cheslin and Dillyn are attacking well this year, they use the angles well. So I’m not worried about their size.”
And while Feeney praised Kolbe and Leyds’ strong contribution on both attack and defence, he also took the opportunity to give his opinion on the obsession, or fixation, on size.
“Cheslin and Dillyn have been two of our form players this year, I think they’ve played well on attack and defence," he said.
“Don’t get too fixated about size – some players can play 10kg above their size, and I feel Cheslin does that."
The Crusaders, the only unbeaten team in the competition, will be another test for Robbie Fleck’s team, especially after suffering defeat to a Lions outfit that could do no wrong at Newlands on Saturday – one week after the Stormers put up a massively impressive performance to end the Chiefs’ unbeaten run.
The Lions’ forwards gave the Cape side a tough time at the scrums, especially on their own ball, while the Stormers were to blame for their own lineout issues.
So it’s only fitting that Feeney recognised the crusade of threats the Kiwis could pose at close quarters and in the set-pieces, while also adding that he believes the forward battle will determine the match.
“The Crusaders’ forward pack is laden with All Blacks. They’ve got seven or eight All Blacks in their pack and they’re playing well, they’re playing with confidence, and they’re playing at home, so it doesn’t get much tougher than that, does it,” the former Blues skills coach said.
“They can easily put out an All Black forward pack and they’re very good at set-piece.
“They’re very physical and very well organised.
“It’s to do with their forward pack (what the result will come down to) ... if you’re All Black-laden up front, you’ve got the best pack in Super Rugby, simple as that.”
And although Feeney was upbeat about the Stormers’ backs, he didn’t underestimate the opposition’s either.
“In the backs Richie Mo’unga has come of age, Ryan Crotty in the midfield is rock-solid," Feeney said.
“Then you’ve got Israel Dagg and a few good young players.
“They’ve got good players all across the park.”
And so the tour begin.Tough few weeks ahead but looking forward to the challenges that awaits! Enjoy the rest of Easter.#nztour2017
Feeney also said that the team learnt a lot during their 29-16 defeat to the Lions, and added that they’re excited to face the “best team in the competition”.
“The boys are doing well after the long travel," Feeney said.
“We took some good learnings out of the last game, and we’re looking forward to playing the Crusaders.
“We’re excited about the challenge ... going up against the best team in the competition at the moment and seeing how we go.”