All Blacks openside Sam Cane has highlighted the threat of opposite number Siya Kolisi ahead of the quarter-final clash between the Chiefs and Stormers on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The Stormers made a statement when they beat the Chiefs 34-26 at Newlands in round eight. Afterwards, Chiefs coach Dave Rennie admitted that the Stormers were the more physical of the two teams at the breakdown. Rennie said that this allowed the hosts to control the tempo of the contest.
Three months later, and the Chiefs have come through the conference stage having sustained only two losses in 15 matches. It’s only because of the nonsensical conference system that they have been denied home advantage in the playoffs.
Not that they are about to complain. On Tuesday, Rennie and Cane held court at the team hotel in Cape Town’s CBD. They haven’t forgotten about the Stormers’ manner of victory in the round eight fixture. At the same time, they remain confident that they will meet the physical challenge in the coming quarter-final at Newlands.
Cane was especially complimentary of the Stormers loose trio. Asked about Kolisi, the Stormers skipper and one of the standout Springbok players in the recent series against France, the All Blacks flanker had nothing but good things to say.
‘He’s a South African loose forward that plays a lot more like a Kiwi,’ Cane said. ‘He’s got good footwork, a great skill-set, and is very physical too.
‘I’m not sure if he has bulked up in the past few years. I first swapped a Test jersey with him four years ago. We always make an effort to chat after the game. We’ve got a good relationship.’
Rennie said that the visitors were expecting another assault at the breakdown. The coach also hinted that the Stormers may look to spoil and stifle with the ultimate aim of slowing the Chiefs down.
‘Everyone knows that our game revolves around lightning-quick ball,’ Rennie said. ‘Because of that, teams are going to work really hard to slow our ball down. Our ball-carriers and supporting players need to do a good job to ensure we get quick ball. And hopefully [referee] Jaco Peyper will play his part in that respect too.
‘That last game [in round eight] was a hell of a game of footy. We made a couple of errors and got punished. We need to look after the ball. They’ve got a big pack and a lot of firepower out the back.That’s what we expect from the African sides. Hopefully, we can get a bit of pill and put pressure on them.’
Rennie has been critical of the conference format for some time, and for good reason. If log points determined log position, the Chiefs would have finished fourth and thus earned the right to host a playoff in Hamilton.
That said, Rennie feels that the Chiefs are in the right mental space to record another playoff win over the Stormers. The Kiwi side thrashed the Stormers 60-21 at Newlands last year.
‘We only lost two games this season and finished sixth. I’m not sure how that works out,’ Rennie grumbled. ’We haven’t put teams away by big margins, but we’ve fronted in the big ones.
‘The Hurricanes have smashed teams this season, and we beat them twice. We’ve shown that we have the ability to turn up when the pressure is on. We’ll have to do that this week against a strong Stormers side.’
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