Pierre Schoeman is wary of the impact that the returning Springboks could have on the Stormers when Edinburgh travel to Cape Town for the Vodacom United Rugby Championship quarter-finals.
Edinburgh will be the only northern-hemisphere team visiting South Africa when they take on the Stormers at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday, 9 June.
The Scottish side did manage to get a rare win for the northern- hemisphere teams when they claimed a 21-5 victory over the Sharks in Durban in March, but they were then beaten by the Lions in Johannesburg the following weekend.
When the two teams last met, it was in the early stages of the competition and the Stormers, despite missing a number of their Springbok players, including captain Steven Kitshoff, tighthead prop Frans Malherbe and lock Marvin Orie, were able to hold the hosts to a 20-20 draw.
It is likely that from that team that played in Edinburgh in round three, only two forwards – Salmaan Moerat and Evan Roos – will be in the starting lineup for the quarter-final clash. Kitshoff, Malherbe, Orie and loose forwards Deon Fourie and Hacjivah Dayimani have all been crucial to the Stormers’ success since returning to the team this year.
Speaking to media from Edinburgh on Tuesday, South African-raised Scotland prop Schoeman said he expects the returning Springboks to make the set-piece battle in the upcoming quarter-final even tougher.
“A big emphasis, we spoke about it already with two weeks to prepare, is the set-piece battle,” said Schoeman. “The South African sides have shown that they are physical. It’s also an opportunity for us as a team to exploit. We learned a lot from the 20-20 draw. We believe we could have beaten the Stormers that day, especially at the DAM Health Stadium, a home game. They have grown as a team, but we have also grown a hell of a lot as a team as well.
“The Stormers props are going well. Steven Kitshoff speaks for himself, he is doing really well. Frans Malherbe gets paid the big bucks because he is a good tighthead and Neethling Fouche has done very well, especially this season. Even at the game at the DAM Health, their set piece was on point. We also put a lot of work and emphasis into our set piece.
“For me personally, it’s all about the team, growing as a pack, going there as a unit and putting in a massive performance at the set piece. Personally, it is nice to go against, not only big names, but world-class players. That’s how you measure yourself, that’s why we all play and train and try to get bettter, is to play in these big games and big moments, a quarter-final; a set piece where you go against each other, that’s where you want to play.”
With the likes of Manie Libbok, Damian Willemse and Warrick Gelant pulling the strings at the back for the Stormers, Schoeman said he could notice a definite improvement and evolution in the Cape side since Edinburgh last faced them.
“We were actually just going through the scrums this morning. Just after the scrums, you can see their tight five getting involved in offloading to the wingers and centres. They are playing class rugby at the moment. They are still proud of their set piece, especially their scrums, yet they have this great continuity on attack. Evan Roos gets them on the front foot and they have this dangerous back three, with Damian Willemse as a centre able to create things out of nothing.
“It is sort of similar to what we are creating at Edinburgh. We have so much up our sleeves, attacking-wise and defensively and at the set piece as well. We are going into this game with confidence, but we really respect them. We are going to have to be more vigilant with certain things on defence, especially when they chuck the ball around with that back three. For us, it will be about making a few tweaks here and there, but we won’t change too much because we have been playing teams that also throw the ball around.”
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