The Brumbies plan to expose the Stormers’ shaky lineout in what will be a monumental clash at Newlands on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
The Stormers are in trouble, at least as far as their lineout is concerned. The Cape side rank 10th in this year's Vodacom Super Rugby competition for possession secured on their own feed. The recent display against the Cheetahs was particularly poor, with the hooker, caller, and jumpers struggling to combine effectively as a unit.
There are doubts, as coach Allister Coetzee suggested at a recent media briefing, that the Stormers can rectify these shortcomings in such a short space of time. A large portion of the side is currently at a national training camp in Johannesburg, and will only return to the Stormers’ set-up on Thursday. Realistically speaking, can the Stormers really improve that much in the space of two days?
To make matters worse, their chief lineout caller, Ruan Botha, has been ruled out of the coming clash because of injury. Manuel Carizza is expected to wear the No 5 jersey against the Brumbies, and there will be pressure on the Argentine to get things right from the outset.
The Brumbies confirmed as much on Tuesday. Coach Stephen Larkham identified the Stormers scrum as an area of strength, and their lineout as a point of weakness. The tourists will target the latter this Saturday in the hope it will lead to scoring opportunities and ultimately an upset. The Brumbies will be desperate for a win following their recent loss to the Waratahs in Canberra.
‘I’ve felt that the Stormers have controlled things well this season, but their lineout has been the one area in which they’ve battled for consistency,' Larkham said. 'They’ve been forced to go to shorter lineouts because the movement and the throwing hasn’t been spot on. It’s something we have noticed and identified [as an opportunity].
‘We have to turn things around after last week's disappointment against the Wararahs. It won't be easy, though, as the Stormers are a quality side and very hard to beat at Newlands, one of the great stadiums in the world.'
While both sides are still in the play-off mix, another defeat will see the loser dropping down the Super Rugby ladder. The importance of the game could thus force both teams to employ more conservative tactics. Larkham reiterated the need for the Brumbies to win the battles at the breakdown and lineout, and to make the most of their scoring chances.
‘Our results over the past month have derailed our season. We have to get back on track. It’s easy to get distracted if you think about the short week and travel from Australia, and the fact that you’re playing a good team that will have a very loud crowd behind them. It can be daunting for the players, and so they will have to hold their heads if we’re to have a shout of winning.’
While the Brumbies have made the trip to South Africa without preferred flyhalf Matt Toomua, they will have the option of selecting first-choice scrumhalf Nic White. The latter is particularly well suited to a tactical-kicking battle, and could have a key role to play in the coming contest.
‘It’s a crucial week for both teams,’ said White. ‘The winner will improve their chances of making the play-offs, while the loser will be under even more pressure [in the final weeks of the league stage].
‘We know what we’re up against. To beat the Stormers in their own backyard, it’s going to take our best performance of the year.’
Photo: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images