CAPE TOWN - It’s that time again and, just like every other year, each team will want to get the best possible start to Super Rugby.
The Stormers will be no different, and with a tour to Australasia looming right after their season-opener against the Jaguares at Newlands on Saturday, it’s vital that they do all they can to boost their morale before they head over to face the Waratahs, Crusaders and Highlanders.
Here are three ways Robbie Fleck’s men can do just that this weekend.
1. Watch those breakdowns
Always an important facet of the game and one that Fleck has described as a focus in the past, the breakdown area can be expected to be a big battle in Cape Town on Saturday afternoon (3.05pm kickoff). In the Stormers’ second pre-season game - one that was tense and contested in hot conditions in Wellington at Boland Stadium - the Bulls looked the stronger team when it came to this area, especially in the first half. But hopefully the Stormers will be on high alert on the ground this weekend after a few struggles against their old foes.
The Jaguares could pose another challenge at the breakdowns with their flanks that at times seem almost immovable once they’re over the ball (say thanks to guys like Pablo Matera and Javier Ortega Desio). Quick reaction and alertness around the fringes will be crucial for the Stormers. And let’s not forget about the Argentines’ often-used tactic of flooding the breakdown point - something that will make a solid start at this area even more important for the Stormers.
2. Break them in broken play
Yeah, the South Americans can create all sorts of problems for their opposition in broken play, that we all know, but it’s something that the Stormers can confidently smile about, too. During the pre-season, Fleck said that he wants his players to flourish in a “chaotic, unstructured game”, not only in this area, but he wants his players to be able to adapt and be able to play any kind of game as well - whether they want to dominate the gain-line, get set-piece dominance or be superior in chaotic play on the day.
And what better test than the Jaguares to not only see how the Stormers can retaliate in broken play, but also defend in those loose spells? With guys like Dillyn Leyds, Damian Willemse, Seabelo Senatla, EW Viljoen, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Nizaam Carr (and so we can go on and on), the hosts have real firepower to do their own thing in those unstructured parts. They just have to make sure that they keep the Jaguares in check there, too. Hello scramble defence.
3. Call the shots at the scrums
When the Jaguares get it right, they really do get it right. In fact, they seldom get their scrummaging wrong. But luckily for the Stormers, their front-row worries of a week ago are in the past. Things were looking bleak for the Cape side, who ran worryingly thin in terms of tighthead props when Wilco Louw was in doubt following an injury he sustained in their 26-all pre-season draw against the Bulls. But Louw has since been cleared, and his presence will be of huge importance when they pack down opposite the Jaguares at scrum time.
The Springbok No 3 had a massive season with Western Province and the Stormers last year, and he didn’t disappoint when he ran onto the Test arena either. Now the Jaguares aren’t always the easiest team to make a prediction on, but one element of their game that stays fairly constant is their scrummaging. So Louw & Co should exert their scrummaging dominance right from the start.