Jaco Coetzee will play a key role for the Stormers when they target the Jaguares at the breakdown at Newlands on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The Stormers come into this game on the back of wins against the Hurricanes, Vodacom Bulls and Lions. The Jaguares, meanwhile, have beaten the Lions and Reds, and lost to the Hurricanes.
John Dobson has selected his strongest available side for the top-of-the-conference clash. Coetzee will form part of a powerful back row that includes World Rugby Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit and the abrasive Juarno Augustus.
Dobson has opted to include six forwards on the bench. When he addressed the media at Newlands on Thursday, the Stormers coach highlighted the forward battle and said that the game would be won and lost at the breakdown.
‘There have been a few subtle changes in their playing style this year,’ Dobson said. ‘They will come to Newlands with an aggressive approach, but I don’t think we’ll see the athleticism that’s been a hallmark of their play in recent seasons.
‘The stats suggest that they had the quickest ruck ball across the 2019 season, and that is one thing we will still have to watch this Saturday. We have to take the space at the breakdowns and ultimately slow them down. We can’t let them build up momentum.’
The inclusion of Coetzee, who was impressive in the first two matches against the Hurricanes and Vodacom Bulls but missed the recent clash with the Lions, is particularly significant. Overall, the Stormers have been one of the best defensive sides in the tournament.
‘We don’t have many players at the franchise who can fulfil that role in terms of playing to the ball,’ said Dobson. ‘I’m sure that Jaco will have a big job to do in terms of taking the speed off the ball. That, in turn, will aid our defence and our linespeed.
‘Every game is physical, but this one against the Jaguares is going to be particularly attritional,’ Dobson added.
Du Toit has been one of the standout performers over the first three rounds of the tournament. The Springbok flank played a lot of rugby last year, though, and is due a rest at some stage according to SA Rugby’s player management protocols.
The Stormers have suffered a few big setbacks, however. With Boks like Siya Kolisi and Bongi Mbonambi sustaining serious injuries, and with several other breaking down at various stages over the first three rounds, the Stormers pack has been reshuffled on a weekly basis.
‘We’re aware that we need to manage Pieter-Steph and a few others over what will be a long season,’ said Dobson. ‘We’re not going to do it now, though. These inter-conference games are too important.
‘We have some management plans, but they will only be implemented after our first bye. After that we will start looking at rotation.’
The Stormers will face the Blues in round five before enjoying a bye in round six.
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