Stormers targeting improvement in kicking game

Stormers coach John Dobson expects his team’s kicking game to improve during the domestic campaign after working with his halfbacks during the lockdown.

The Stormers will be back in action this weekend as they take on the Lions at Loftus Versfeld in one of two matches on ‘Super Fan Saturday’.

The Western Cape side continued their phased return to play with a full workout of three 20-minute chukkas at Newlands over this past weekend, where Dobson was able to get a better look at the fitness and form of his Springboks and youngsters.

One area where the Stormers struggled during the regular Super Rugby campaign earlier this year was with their territory gain through the boots of halfbacks Herschel Jantjies and Damian Willemse. This was evident during the team’s two successive losses to the Blues and Sharks just before the campaign was halted by the Covid-19 pandemic in mid-March.

During a media conference last week, Dobson emphasised that they worked strongly on the Stormers’ kicking game during lockdown.

‘Those last two games that we lost, the Sharks and the Blues, one was 38% territory and one was 39% territory,’ Dobson said. ‘That big pack – so Springbok-laden – are used to playing in the right parts of the field. That’s where they get their energy from, being close to the opposition’s 22.

‘So, they weren’t enjoying that. The way Steven Kitshoff carries outside our 22 versus outside the opposition 22 is two very different carries. That was our biggest takeaway and what we have worked on the most. Our kicking systems, simplifying it, getting our chase right and upskilling the likes of Herschel, Godlen and Damian. That’s probably been the biggest part of our game change.’

It is one area where the Stormers could be boosted by the arrival of Warrick Gelant from the Vodacom Bulls, as the Springbok is as comfortable clearing the line and pressuring the opposition through his boot as he is with dancing through defences.

As an added bonus, the Stormers were able to enlist the services of Brendan Venter on a part-time basis during lockdown to help their halfbacks in one-on-one sessions.

‘He has just been helping the nines and 10s over the pre-season, mostly was off-the-field stuff,’ Dobson said. ‘But this was meant to be the culmination to see how they were going. We have an amazing bunch of flyhalves. Other than Swiel and Damian, we have Christopher Schreuder who is really good, we have Kade Wolhuter and [Juan] Mossie Mostert and then Thomas Bursey at scrumhalf, who is another who has impressed me.  His kicking game is exceptional.

‘So, Brendan has just been helping on more of an individual basis. As we go into competition, there won’t be time for it anymore.’

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