The Crusaders look set to run the Stormers ragged in the clash at Newlands on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The Crusaders blew the Vodacom Bulls away at Loftus Versfeld last week. The top-ranked side looked to up the tempo from the outset of the contest, and duly punished the hosts at the gainline and in the wider channels.
Are they satisfied with a 45-13 result on the Highveld? Could they have scored more than seven tries via a sharper and more clinical performance?
Senior statesmen Ryan Crotty was ambivalent when he addressed the media at the team hotel in Cape Town on Thursday. While the Crusaders were happy with the result and aspects of their attacking performance at Loftus, they are looking for a sharper showing at the breakdown at Newlands this weekend.
If they continue to dominate the collisions and play at a high tempo, though, they may well eclipse the 50-point mark and hand the Stormers a hiding of epic proportions.
‘It was always our intent to play at a high tempo and run the Bulls’ big boys around the park,’ said Crotty. ‘The South African teams boast bigger men up front, so perhaps they prefer a slower game.
‘The Stormers will pose a different challenge to that of the Bulls. We’ve got some different moves and maps that we think will work against them this week. Now it’s about executing those under pressure.
‘Having said that, a high tempo game suits our skill set and the quality of the men we have out wide. While we will need to adjust to the contest as it unfolds, we know what kind of game we want to play.’
Duane Vermeulen frustrated the Crusaders at the breakdown last week. While that effort by the Bulls No 8 had little bearing on the result, the Crusaders are looking for a sharper showing in that area when they meet the Stormers.
‘It was a pivotal part of the contest last week. Both teams were hunting hard at the breakdown and getting rewards for doing it fairly,’ said Crotty.
‘We’ve got to be faster to the breakdown this week. Our closest guys to the ball-carrier need to be sharp. We can’t give their big, strong men the chance to get on to the ball, because once they’re there, they’re very hard to move.’
The Stormers will hope that the Crusaders arrive at Newlands with a complacent attitude. Indeed, one could forgive a team for taking its foot off the pedal following a 45-13 win on the Highveld.
Scott Robertson’s Crusaders – who won the tournament in 2017 and 2018, and have lost one game to date in 2019 – are no ordinary side.
‘We’re not too worried about what the media is saying about the Stormers’ chances,’ Crotty said. ‘We have to prepare to face a quality side.
‘When you don’t prepare, that’s when you can get in trouble. We’ve have a good week of preparation, and now it’s about putting the polish on and filling the engine for a big effort come Saturday.’
Crotty featured prominently in the title-winning campaigns of 2017 and 2018. While he refused to give away any details regarding the Crusaders’ winning formula, he did say that a strong culture was at the heart of their success.
‘We’ve got guys that get on well and care a lot about the team. I think you can see that on the field, when we’re scrambling and working hard for one another.
‘That’s not to say other teams don’t do it, but we pride ourselves on that work ethic. That’s one thing that’s helped us to be successful in recent years.’
Stormers – 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Josh Stander, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Jaco Coetzee, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Cobus Wiese, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Kobus van Dyk, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 23 Dan Kriel.
Crusaders – 15 David Havili, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Ethan Blackadder, 5 Sam Whitelock (c) , 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 George Bower.
Subs: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 Harry Allan, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Braydon Ennor.
Photo: Martin Hunter/www.photosport.nz