Stormers coach John Dobson believes there could be a chance to exploit Rieko Ioane defensively in the outside centre channel on Saturday. DYLAN JACK reports.
Ioane is set to return from injury and resume his role in the No 13 jersey when the Blues face the Stormers at Newlands this weekend.
The All Blacks star decided to make the shift from his regular position at wing during the off-season, with the blessing of coach Leon MacDonald.
Before he got injured in the first half of the Blues’ opening match of the season against the Chiefs, Ioane looked like he was in electric form, scoring twice as the Blues took a lead into the break before the Chiefs came back and won the match in the second half.
‘Obviously, it is a challenge, given how good he is,’ Dobson said on the 22-year-old. ‘He is big, direct and fast. We know that. He probably has similar qualities to Ruhan Nel. Obviously, it is a massive opportunity for them on attack. It is probably the flashpoint of their team for us.’
When it comes to the historical record of wings shifting to the midfield, they often tend to struggle most with the defensive responsibilities of their new role.
As an example, George North made a similar move for Wales and while he has been a bright spark on attack, he has been exploited defensively during the Six Nations.
Dobson believes there could be a similar opportunity for his side with regard to Ioane, if they are able to up their phase play and force him into a decision.
’13 is not an easy place to defend. So maybe that could be an opportunity for us. It is what I would like to think. I know it is a cliche, but it is the most difficult position in rugby to defend.
‘The problem is that we have to create the space so that he has got to make a decision, which is something we have not done terribly well over the last few weeks. If we are going to play side-to-side rugby or not create the opportunities for our backs, then we are not going to be able put him under pressure.’
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