Stormers coach Robbie Fleck says they have taken note of the changes the Sharks have made to their defensive system, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
The Sharks’ defensive woes were well documented last season, with the Durban-based side conceding 43 tries on their way to an 11th-place finish.
However, with defence guru Omar Mouneimne now at the helm, the Sharks underwent an overhaul of their defensive and kicking game during the pre-season, with these two areas of the game going ‘hand-in-hand’.
Although the Sharks would have been disappointed with their high missed tackle count against the Jaguares last weekend, it’s been clear to see that there is a new intensity to their defence, while they’ve only conceded three tries in two games.
‘We know Omar from the time he spent coaching here [between 2008 and 2010], he’s a very good defensive coach and you can see a big difference in the Sharks’ defensive system,’ Fleck conceded ahead of Saturday’s clash at Newlands.
‘The Sharks are looking good, and appear to be a well-rounded side. There are some clear changes from last season, they’re very organised defensively and have a well-balanced kicking game, with good kickers in Joe Pietersen and Willie le Roux. But I also think they’re looking to keep the ball in hand a bit more. We’re actually two quite similar teams.’
Pietersen has looked impressive since slotting in at flyhalf for the injured Pat Lambie, and Fleck said they certainly knew what threats the former Stormers stalwart could pose.
‘Joe’s a really good rugby player, and when he has time on the ball he can be very dangerous. He generally makes good decisions, so we can’t just let him have it all his own way, we have to put him under a bit of pressure. He’s a point-scoring machine, and he’s got a nice flow into the Sharks’ attack and he’s running things smoothly. I like the way the Sharks are playing, they’ve got some big strong backs and a mobile pack.’
Undoubtedly, another area of focus in Saturday’s coastal derby will be the lineouts, a facet of play where the Stormers have been particularly dominant so far this season, and are ranked No 2 in terms of opposition ball stolen.
Fleck said they had a new philosophy when it came to contesting at this set piece.
‘We’re looking to be far more aggressive than we have been in the past. We’d like to put the opposition under pressure, and in the past we perhaps weren’t aggressive enough. It’s been working for us so far, but we have to pick our moments. The Sharks have a strong maul, so we need to be clever about which balls we contest, and which we don’t.’
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