David Pocock's influence at the breakdown will earn the Brumbies another big win against the Stormers at Newlands this Saturday, writes JON CARDINELLI.
The Stormers have a plan for Pocock. This Saturday, they will send their ball-carriers down the openside flanker's channel.
They will force Pocock to perform the role of first tackler. They will hope that Pocock rolls away (or that referee Jaco Peyper enforces the law). Ultimately, they will hope that Pocock's ball-slowing and stealing strengths are neutralised.
For this plan to work, the Stormers have to win the battle at the gainline. Their forwards need to gain the upper hand at the scrums and lineouts. Their loose trio simply has to keep the hosts going forward on attack.
If the Stormers fail to win the collisions, they will fail to win the breakdowns. And if they fail to negate Pocock's influence, they will struggle to control the pace of the game.
'We can’t just sit back and let things run and allow the Brumbies to dictate [the pace of] the game,' said Stormers coach Robbie Fleck on Thursday. 'We have to take a fearless approach in everything we do, and really challenge them on their strengths as well as their weaknesses.
'They’ve been the best team in the competition this season. They have a world-class fetcher in Pocock, and they beat us hands down at the breakdown [in the 2015 playoff]. But it’s not only about Pocock. Their defence is a factor, not only at the breakdown, but also in terms of their line speed. We have to be smarter in how we handle that challenge.'
The Brumbies hammered the Stormers in the qualifying playoff at Newlands last year. The visitors put six tries past the Stormers on that occasion.
The Brumbies of 2016 look to be a more polished outfit. Their scrum has been in fearsome form. They haven't been afraid to use the lineout maul as a try-scoring weapon.
The Stormers started the season well with a big win over the Bulls. However, the performance of the tight five in subsequent matches against the Cheetahs and Sharks has been less convincing.
The Stormers will go into the game against the Brumbies as the underdogs as far as the forward battle is concerned. One wonders if they have a Plan B if their pack doesn't gain parity.
The Brumbies have an outstanding kicking game. If their pack fires, the halfback combination of Christian Leali'ifano and Tomas Cubelli will look to strengthen their position through a series of well-directed tactical kicks.
Perhaps the one chink in the Brumbies' armour is at No 15. Jesse Mogg had a fine outing in the 2015 playoff. Mogg has since moved on, and his replacement, Aidan Toua, has battled to make an impact in the kicking department.
The Stormers have promised to up the tempo and move the ball around this Saturday. But if they do match the Brumbies up front, it wouldn't surprise to see them targeting Toua at the back with several high kicks of their own.
The Brumbies are undefeated after three matches. The Stormers, however, are coming off a loss to the Sharks. They will be desperate to secure a win before they travel to Buenos Aires to play the Jaguares, a team that boasts a host of Test players.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Brumbies 12, Stormers 6, Draw 1
At Newlands: Stormers 5, Brumbies 5, Draw 1
STATS AND FACTS
– The Stormers have won three of their last four regular season encounters with the Brumbies and haven’t lost to them on home soil in the regular season since 2010.
– The Stormers have won five and drawn one of their last eight matches at home but after defeat in round three will be aiming to avoid consecutive losses at home for the first time since the 2011 semi-finals.
– The Brumbies have scored 15 tries in their opening three matches this season, the equal most of any team in the competition (Chiefs).
– The Stormers’ three tries conceded this season is the fewest of any team and they’ve not conceded more than one try in any single quarter.
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Stormers||Robert du Preez (25)||Leolin Zas (2)||Cheslin Kolbe (219)||Eben Etzebeth (33)|
|Brumbies||Christian Leali’ifano (43)||Joe Tomane, Stephen Moore, Josh Mann-Rea (2)||Joe Tomane (161)||Matt Toomua (30)|
Stormers – 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Juan de Jongh (c), 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Schalk Burger, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe (c), 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Subs: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 23 Leolin Zas.
Brumbies – 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Joseph Tomane, 10 Christian Leali'ifano, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Jarrad Butler, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Scott Sio.
Subs: 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Allan Alaalatoa, 18 Leslie Leulua'iali'i-Makin, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Jordan Smiler, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Robbie Coleman, 23 Nigel Ah Wong.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco van Heerden (South Africa), Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images