The Chiefs will back their attacking strategy in the quarter-final against the Stormers despite the threat of rain as well as the nature of playoff rugby. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The Chiefs lost to the Highlanders in Dunedin last week. The 2015 champions played a smarter brand of rugby, using their physical defence and pinpoint kicking game to pressure the Chiefs into making mistakes. Thereafter, they did well to translate those errors into scoring chances at the other end of the field.
The Chiefs, however, feel they are on the right track as far as their game plan is concerned. On Tuesday in Cape Town, coach Dave Rennie told reporters that the visitors would stick to their strategy regardless of the occasion. Rain is expected in the Newlands area on Saturday, but that also won’t deter the Chiefs in their quest to run the Stormers off their feet.
However, Rennie did make it clear that the Chiefs would look to use the tactical boot as much as the offload in an attempt to fracture one of the best defences in the competition.
‘The Stormers have always been a team that looks to play at the right end of the field. They’ve got an impressive defensive lineout and a big scrum. We’re expecting a big challenge on Saturday,’ said Rennie.
‘We’ve been pretty good at dealing with the ball when it’s been kicked in behind us. The Stormers have got a smart kicking game. We played against a team that is renowned for its kicking game last week, so we should be prepared.’
The Chiefs will be without star centre Seta Tamanivalu for this clash. They will, however, still have the likes of Damian McKenzie and James Lowe in tow. Rennie said the back three would have a key role to play in terms of initiating the counter-attack.
‘We don’t want to get caught in a kicking duel this Saturday. When we do kick, it will be with the aim of manipulating the game so that we can get the ball back and attack again from there.
‘The expectation is that the Stormers will kick us a bit of ball. We can almost use that as another set piece, a chance to launch. The back-three counter-attack has been important for us, and you will obviously look to use your strengths any way you can.’
Chiefs co-captain Aaron Cruden refused to entertain talk of the Stormers possessing a weakness at flyhalf. The Cape side is currently without Kurt Coleman and Jean-Luc du Plessis due to injuries. Both Brandon Thomson and Robert du Preez are relatively new to Super Rugby.
Cruden said he was more wary of the collective threat of the Stormers, and their ability to take the Chiefs out of their comfort zone.
‘South African teams like to play from set piece to set piece. They like to play at the right end of the field. Maybe that’s because they have such big, dynamic forwards. We’ve got to find the right balance this Saturday, and keep our error-rate down. We don’t want to play into their hands.’
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