CAPE TOWN – Stormers loose forward Jaco Coetzee has become a proper breakdown weapon. And seeing as Saturday’s match against the Lions is a must-win for both sides, doing real damage on the ground is going to be key.
The Stormers and Lions both still have a chance of bagging a Super Rugby wildcard play-off spot, so that in itself adds spice to the fixture.
But if there’s one area in particular that’s guaranteed to be a hot one, it’s the breakdown.
Springbok hooker Malcolm Marx comes to mind when one thinks of the threats the Lions bring, and his work on the deck has proven one of the biggest pains for his opposition.
There’s also Kwagga Smith and Marnus Schoeman, a combination that automatically marks the breakdown area with a bright red X.
But so does Coetzee. He was massive for the Stormers in their last two games against the Crusaders and the Highlanders, and this weekend another big one will come in handy.
“This game is going to be a difficult one at the breakdown points but it is also an opportunity to test yourself against the best there is” Coetzee said.
“It’s going to be lekker… it's going to be tough. Kwagga Marnus and Malcolm both do very well at the breakdown and I am not sure how they do it. My body still gets sore after doing that,” Coetzee quipped.
“I have managed to win a few balls recently but I have high respect for what they can do and what the Lions generally can do at the breakdown and elsewhere.”
But Coetzee chose not to focus on Marx and company too much.
“We have stuff we will be working on to try and stop them so that they don’t steal all our ball,” he said. “I’m not too focused on what Malcolm and the Lions will bring, I want to focus on my own game if I get to play.”
The Cape franchise has an impressive line of No 8s, and following injuries to Sikhumbuzo Notshe and Juarno Augustus, Coetzee has enjoyed more game time at the back of the scrum.
“If you look at it, we have good flanks and No 8s both at the Stormers and in the country and it is difficult to put your foot down and decide I want to be the next Duane Vermeulen or the next Schalk Burger,” Coetzee said.
While Coetzee’s breakdown work looks almost innate, he explained that, knowing the loose forward stocks in the Cape, he had to add another element to his game.
“At the Stormers we have great ball carriers so I needed to look at a possible different role and I saw an opportunity to be the guy who steals a bit of ball at the breakdowns. I began working on that a couple of years ago and now I am pleased it is coming through.
“I didn’t think at the start that I would get so many opportunities and so many games to start, but I got my break and am very thankful for every chance that I have had. I am very happy with how the season has gone for me personally” he said.@WynonaLouw