Connacht won’t fall into trap of underestimating Stormers without Deon Fourie and Marvin Orie, says coach Andy Friend

Connacht head coach Andy Friend

FILE - Connacht head coach Andy Friend. Photo: Tom Maher/INPHO/Shutterstock/BackpagePix

Published May 12, 2023


Cape Town — Connacht are well aware of the danger that the Stormers pose with ball-in-hand, and the injury-enforced absence of Deon Fourie and Marvin Orie won’t make it easier for the Irish province in Saturday’s United Rugby Championship semi-final.

That was the message from director of rugby Andy Friend on Friday after naming an unchanged match-23 for the Cape Town Stadium showdown (4pm kick-off).

Australian mentor Friend, a former Brumbies coach, is also in his final year in Ireland before returning home, and will hope his farewell season continues for another few weeks ahead of a final – just like Stormers captain Steven Kitshoff.

Connacht pulled off a superb 15-10 victory over Ulster in last week’s quarter-final in Belfast, but know that they will have to be even better to knock over the defending champions after travelling to Cape Town.

“We won’t fall into that trap, mate, of thinking it is going to be easier (with Fourie and Orie ruled out). They are a quality rugby side. I know John (Dobson), who is a quality coach,” Friend said on Friday.

“Ideally you want to have the best players out there, but there is always someone behind who is waiting for an opportunity.

“So, we are under no false illusion, after seeing that team, that we will have to be at our best to win the game.

“If you are loose against them and you give them opportunity, they’ve got those X-factor players that are very hard to stop.

“That will happen tomorrow — there will be errors, we will turn the ball over and potentially kick poorly. They will probably do the same, so it’s about minimising those and how we react to that … how we stop the bleeding.”

The win over Ulster was characterised by a fierce breakdown effort, and without Fourie to contest possession on the ground, the Stormers will have their work cut out to apply pressure at the contact point.

Connacht can turn it on in attack as well, with lethal Irish Test wing Mack Hansen and centre Bundee Aki in their backline.

“The physicality needs to be there again. They’ve got some big X-factor players, so we’re going to have to defensively front up there, and it’s going to take some scramble, take some bodies at the front – that’s going to be a big battle,” Friend said.

“The second thing is that we will create and will be presented with opportunities, and we’ve got to be good enough to finish those. You can’t win semi-finals if you leave too many of those out there.

“We know that they are extremely good when they get into the opposition 22. We need to be as good, if not better, when we get into their 22, and the team that takes most of the opportunities that they create is the team that is going to win tomorrow.

“We’re all aware of the prize ahead, but we’ve got 80 minutes to put in probably the best performance of our season (to reach the final).”

Connacht Team

15 Tiernan O’Halloran 14 John Porch 13 Tom Farrell 12 Bundee Aki 11 Mack Hansen 10 Jack Carty (captain) 9 Caolin Blade 8 Cian Prendergast 7 Conor Oliver 6 Shamus Hurley-Langton 5 Niall Murray 4 Josh Murphy 3 Finlay Bealham 2 Dave Heffernan 1 Denis Buckley.

Bench: 16 Dylan Tierney-Martin 17 Jordan Duggan 18 Jack Aungier 19 Oisin Dowling 20 Jarrad Butler 21 Kieran Marmion 22 Tom Daly 23 Byron Ralston.


IOL Sport