Fine-tuning crucial in Boland bout

Rassie Erasmus says his loose trio should benefit from Saturday’s clash as the Stormers look to curb their breakdown shortcomings.

Most experts will tell you the Super 14 is won and lost at the tackle point. It’s no surprise that every champion Super Rugby team has boasted a champion set of loose forwards, and it’s no surprise that every coach places an emphasis on this area in preparation for each campaign.

The Stormers were a mixed bag in this department last Sunday but will not have an opportunity to improve with a first-choice back row against Boland. Schalk Burger is nursing an ankle injury while Francois Louw damaged his own ankle during the Saracens match.

Luke Watson, Pieter Louw and Boetie Britz will start in Wellington and Erasmus has stressed the need for his loosies to get it right against the fiery Bolanders.

“We had a chance to look at the video and there were probably an equal amount of turnovers [in that Saracens game] for both teams which indicates a very competitive contest,” he told keo.co.za. “We were good at the breakdown on defence but not so awesome on attack, and it’s definitely something we want to improve on against Boland.”

One would have expected Duane Vermeulen to receive another start given he’s only had one match for the Stormers since moving down from the Cheetahs. Erasmus agreed Vermeulen made his mark against Saracens, but feels a few other fringe players deserve a run.

Erasmus, of course, already knows what Vermeulen has to offer having coached him at the Cheetahs in 2006 and 2007.

“He made a lot of steals and ball carries against Saracens, and made a big contribution at the lineout. He’s not a flashy player but he contests well in every area. I couldn’t have asked for a better first effort.

“Duane had quite a bit of game against UCT in the games before the warm-ups, so we are not worried. Schalk will also be taking contact again next week and we may opt for a match simulation to ensure he is contact-ready.”

Watson will start at No 8 for the second game in a row and seems the favourite to wear this shirt throughout the Super 14. Erasmus maintains he doesn’t believe in opensides or blindsides, and that loose forwards should be versatile enough to slot in according to the situation.

“In my back row, it doesn’t matter what number a loose forward wears on his back,” he said.

By Jon Cardinelli