Cape Town – The Stormers have identified Heinrich Brussow as a major threat to their chances of defeating the Cheetahs in Saturday's Super Rugby clash at Newlands in Cape Town (kick-off 5:05pm).
Since his return from a long injury lay-off just over a month ago, Brussow has imposed himself on breakdown play and his efforts have bolstered the Cheetahs' performance.
“Brussow will have a definite effect on the game,” Stormers coach Allister Coetzee said.
“But there are other players in that Cheetahs side who are also effective at the breakdowns. With the Cheetahs there will also be a battle for ball in the air, as opposed to solely on the ground.”
With Brussow's influence in mind, the Stormers have braced themselves to counter the threat.
“Our reaction will be crucial and we'll need to be there first and take control,” said Coetzee.
“We cannot allow the breakdown to become messy and then allow our No 9 (the scrumhalf) to be put under pressure.”
Coetzee said the Cheetahs have employed varying kicking options to great effect and they had prepared for it.
Stormers wing Cheslin Kolbe said strategies were in place to deal with the Cheetahs' kicking tactics and the strike threat posed out wide by Springbok wing Willie le Roux.
“We are going into the match with structures to make sure we can deal with whatever the Cheetahs may throw at us,” said Kolbe.
“We know that Le Roux is a dangerous player but they have others who can be equally effective if we don't stay in our structures.”
With both teams out of the running for the season-ending playoffs, the absence of pressure has given way to attacking mindsets. As a result, both the Stormers and the Cheetahs have given the ball more air in recent outings.
However, the big challenge facing the teams will be to maintain their discipline, and that could have a telling influence on the game especially at breakdown time where stand-out ball scavengers like Brussow and Deon Fourie (Stormers hooker) have been yellow carded, every now and again.
The other area that the Stormers have been paying attention to this week is scrumming. The Cheetahs gave a strong scrum performance last week, especially in the second half, when they scored a shock 27-21 win over the high-fancied Aussie outfit, the Brumbies.
Cheetahs skipper Adriaan Strauss said his side's improved scrum in the second half paved the way for an eventual victory.
“When you concede a few free-kicks and penalties from scrums, you're more inclined to want to focus on that area of your game,” said Strauss.
“We could not afford to let the Brumbies dominate our scrums in the second half and everyone played their part.”
Unexpectedly, the Cheetahs have demoted Trevor Nyakane, who has been named in the Springbok training group, to the bench and opted to start with the Cape Town-born loosehead prop Caylib Oosthuizen.
The Stormers have also surprised by naming loosehead prop Alistair Vermaak in the starting line-up ahead of Brok Harris or Oli Kebble.
Vermaak has made impressive performances off the bench over the past two weeks but he faces the daunting task of packing against the Cheetahs' Springbok strongman Coenie Oosthuizen, who has been a major factor in the side's improved performances of late.
“From a scrumming perspective, Alistair is very tidy. He has good posture and a high workrate around the field,” said Coetzee.
“We've seen that there are always scrum resets in matches against the Cheetahs, and we need to make sure that we are on the right side (of the law).” – Sapa