Jaco Coetzee says the Stormers are wary of the Lions’ threat at the breakdown ahead of their must-win Vodacom Super Rugby clash at Ellis Park on Saturday, writes JOHN GOLIATH.
The Lions have three top scavengers in their team, with hooker Malcolm Marx and back-row forwards Kwagga Smith and Marnus Schoeman playing towards the ball and putting a lot of pressure on the opposition at the tackle area.
Marx has stolen four balls this season and forced six penalties, while Smith has also stolen the ball four times. The Hurricanes’ Ardie Savea leads the turnover stats with seven pilfers.
But the Lions aren’t always accurate at the breakdown, as all three players have conceded their fair share of penalties, while Schoeman has racked up quite a few yellow cards during the campaign.
The Stormers are still sweating over the fitness of star Springboks Siya Kolisi and Pieter-Steph du Toit after they picked up injuries in their win over the Highlanders. However, Coetzee has also been a standout player in the back row, combining power with his own ability to compete hard at the breakdown.
The breakdown is an area where the game could be won or lost, especially as both teams will be looking for quick ball on attack, while also making sure the opposition don’t get ball on the front foot to attack with their dangerous backs.
The Lions love turnover ball and are normally pretty sharp, while the Stormers can call on the dangerous Dillyn Leyds, who has scored and set up quite a few tries with counter-attacks.
‘It’s going to be a massive battle at the breakdown. It’s a good game to test yourself against the best players in South Africa. It’s going to be a great challenge for all of us,’ Stormers No 8 Coetzee said.
‘Kwagga, Marnus and Malcolm are doing well. I don’t know how they get it right to be so successful on the ground, because my body is always sore if I attack so many breakdowns. I have a lot of respect for all three of them.
‘We are making a lot of plans to protect our ball against them,’ he added.
Marx has become one of the great players over the ball in world rugby. When he gets his hands on the ball he doesn’t easily let go. You almost need a bulldozer to get him off it.
But the Stormers have their plans to contain him, which includes trying to beat him to the tackled player and giving a lot of support to the ball carrier. The Stormers also need to win the collision, because allowing Marx to line you up is suicide.
‘If you’re late to clean out a player then you are going to struggle against the Lions. But if you can latch on to the ball carrier quickly and support the player, then Marx or whoever can’t get his hands on the ball.’
Injuries to Sikhumbuzo Notshe and Juarno Augustus opened the door for Coetzee this season and he has taken his chances with both hands.
He has been the Stormers’ grafter in the loose trio, his work rate is fantastic, while he constantly makes a nuisance of himself at the breakdown. He is also a strong with ball in hand, and has provided the Stormers with stopping power on defence.
‘I didn’t think at the start that I would get so many opportunities and so many games to start, but I got my break and am very thankful for every chance that I have had,’ he commented. ‘I am very happy with how the season has gone for me personally.’
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