Stormers expect ruck assault

The Stormers are bracing for another fierce and potentially rule-bending breakdown performance by the Brumbies in the qualifying play-off on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.

The Stormers were far from pleased following their 25-24 win against the Brumbies six weeks ago. Afterwards, coach Allister Coetzee slammed the Brumbies for their breakdown tactics, as well as the referee Stuart Berry for not punishing the perceived transgressions more severely.

As fate would have it, the Stormers will host the Brumbies again this weekend in a qualifying play-off. If all the talk these past few days is to be believed, then Newlands could witness another fierce scrap at the breakdown on Saturday.

At a glance, it would appear the Brumbies are better equipped for a clash of this nature. Springbok No 8 Duane Vermeulen has been the Stormers’ best ball-carrier and fetcher this season, but will miss the qualifying play-off due to a neck injury. Meanwhile, Brumbies fetcher David Pocock is expected to recover from a head knock sustained in last week’s game against the Crusaders, and should take his place in the starting side.

Coetzee concedes that the loss of Vermeulen is significant, but still believes the Stormers back row can best that of the Brumbies. Much of course will depend on how the referee, Jaco Peyper, interprets that breakdown battle.

Coetzee said Peyper ‘is not afraid to make the big calls’, the inference being the Brumbies should not get away with any cynical or deliberate infringements on Saturday.

‘We know the Brumbies’ defence has got the line speed and will attack the breakdown,’ said Coetzee. ‘If it’s legal and fair, we’ve got no issue. But if it’s not, they should be penalised.

‘There’s always going to be that edge in any game,’ Coetzee added when asked about the niggle that characterised the last encounter between the two sides. ‘It’s going to be intense, but off-the-ball stuff is not good for the spectacle. It’s not needed, and I’m sure the refs will deal with it.’

Speaking from the Brumbies' team hotel in Cape Town on Tuesday, coach Stephen Larkham agreed that it would be an especially physical game. Larkham also appeared to be pleased that Peyper, a South African, will be in control of the match.

‘He’s a mutual ref as far as we concerned. We had Jaco in our game against the Lions, and last week when we played the Crusaders. He did a good job, and I’d say he’s a very consistent ref.

‘The one thing you need if you want to beat a team like the Stormers is Test match intensity,’ Larkham continued. ‘We will need to get our own physicality up there.’

At the same time, the Brumbies are looking to improve on their discipline. While Coetzee felt the Brumbies weren’t punished enough in that previous match at Newlands, the visitors did concede a whopping 19 penalties. 

‘At this stage of the season, you can’t make those mistakes,’ said Larkham. ‘It’s like a Test match where three points can be the difference between winning and losing. We will need to work hard to ensure we don’t concede those penalties.’

Photo: Ryan Wilisky/BackpagePix

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Jon Cardinelli