Ospreys coach Toby Booth says the Stormers will unleash “a world of pain” if allowed to control the breakdown and kicking battle in Saturday’s showdown at Cape Town Stadium, reports DEVIN HERMANUS.
The Ospreys are the best-ranked Welsh side in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship, but they’re coming off a crushing 45-15 loss to the Lions at Ellis Park.
The Stormers, though, are looking to build on a thrilling 23-20 win over Ulster in Cape Town, which kept them top of the South African log and sixth overall in the URC.
John Dobson’s men have bamboozled opponents with their lethal counter-attacking and finishing skills, but Booth wants Ospreys to flip the script on their hosts by starving them of possession.
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s clash in Cape Town, Booth said: “Without a doubt, this game looks like it’s about who’s going to deal with the kicking game the best. If you kick loosely at their counter-attack, there’s a world of pain coming back the other way.
“It looks like they’re going to kick the ball a lot and we have to deal with that threat, and turn that pressure around and impose ourselves on them.”
The Stormers’ back three of Warrick Gelant, Seabelo Senatla and Leolin Zas account for 15 of the Capetonians’ 44 tries so far, yet Booth says South African teams’ scoring threat is built on their dominance in the trenches.
The Ospreys boss added: “Everyone marvels at their attack but one thing that gets forgotten out here is the aggressiveness of their defence, and the aggressiveness of the defensive breakdown – they try and shut you off before you get there.
“So, in order to get these attacking-based players in the game you need to win the middle of the pitch. We need to control them defensively … if they bring the ball towards you and offload it’s very difficult to control, so that’s also due to the quality of the kicking game and the speed of the ball at the breakdown.”
Flyhalf Stephen Myler is ruled out for the visitors, while several players have been battling illness, so Booth is relieved to welcome Wales Test reinforcements Alex Cuthbert, Tomas Francis, Adam Beard, Jac Morgan, Gareth Thomas, Dewi Lake, Owen Watkin and Gareth Anscombe for this weekend’s match.
“Whatever happens on Saturday we need to match the expectations of ourselves; we’re not at altitude anymore and we need to put our best foot forward and perform,” the coach said. “Having an influx of international players helps the energy, so we need to set ourselves up for a strong end to the season.”