BIG STEP FROM THE BIG MAN: Andries Bekker tries to beat Nic Groom and Don Armand with his footwork during a recent Stormers practice. Bekker will make his return to action after a long injury layoff against Boland at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday.

Ashfak Mohamed

STORMERS coach Allister Coetzee has called on his players to show more patience on attack in Saturday’s final Super Rugby warm-up game against Boland at the Cape Town Stadium.

Despite running up an 11-0 lead by halftime, the Stormers failed to convert a number of promising try-scoring opportunities against the Cheetahs last weekend. That lack of precision eventually caught up with them as they went down to a last-minute long-range penalty by Cheetahs replacement Hansie Graaff.

Although the result was not important at this stage of the season, getting their execution spot-on is the main reason for warm-up games. With the Stormers only playing one more against Boland before their Super Rugby opener against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on February 22, Coetzee wants to see a drastic improvement this weekend.

“I would like to see more continuity this weekend. I felt that a lot of our plays broke down due to just simple knock-ons or poor passes, and over-eagerness on attack. We want to see a bigger work-rate from the whole team, and we would like to hold on to the ball,” the coach said this week.

“We would rather see it at this stage of the season. I think on Saturday, we won’t kick for goal, as we want to get enough set-piece opportunities and try to get our attack going and keep ball-in-hand a bit more.”

But while there wasn’t any great cohesion in the backline, the forwards continued their efficiency at lineout time and with their driving mauls from the last few years. New hooker Martin Bezuidenhout’s throwing-in was on the mark, and Eben Etzebeth jumped well.

Coetzee, though, was encouraged by the progress the Stormers are making on attack. “Ja, but I was just not happy to see two tries being scored from mauls – I want to see tries scored from different areas on the field. But it is good to see that (the mauling) is still a strength of ours. We had quite a good video session in terms of the disappointment with what we wanted to get right,” he said.

“But what was pleasing again was that we created opportunities. If you think about Damian’s pass that went to ground – he had Bryan on his outside and Nizaam on his inside – Nemo (Nizaam Carr) could’ve scored his hat trick when he was tackled just short of the line, Louis Schreuder just losing the ball, Don Armand knocked-on with that pick-and-go close to the tryline.

“I would say that it was just the rustiness and a lack of match practice that contributed to us missing out.”

With Juan de Jongh out injured, Jean de Villiers is back from his neck problem to partner Damian de Allende in midfield. Both players are close to the 100kg mark and 1.90m in height, so their size could prove a handful to the Bulls defence, let alone Boland this weekend.

Jaco Taute had a satisfactory Stormers debut, kicking well out of hand and running hard with the ball, but he will look to link better with teammates such as Bryan Habana and Gio Aplon on Saturday.

The Boland clash will also give Coetzee an opportunity to evaluate the readiness of returning loose forwards Siya Kolisi and Rynhardt Elstadt, lock Andries Bekker and WP Currie Cup captain Deon Fourie. While Fourie is certain to be the first-choice hooker for the Bulls game, the loose-trio positions may still be up for grabs.

The only definite at this stage is Springbok Duane Vermeulen at No 8, but with the injury cloud hovering above captain Schalk Burger, the likes of Kolisi, Elstadt, Carr and Michael Rhodes are all still in the running at flank.

Carr made an energetic start in his return from a long injury layoff by scoring twice from driving mauls against the Cheetahs, and running excellent lines off the ball-carrier as the game went on. But Kolisi should have the inside lane for one of the spots, even if Burger recovers from his calf strain in time for the Bulls showdown.

“It’s not about winning a match, but getting stuck into the breakdown, getting up from the floor and reacting and being under pressure,” Coetzee said. “It’s not easy to simulate match situations at training, and Boland will be up for it and make the most of it.”