De Waal key to Loftus upset

Willem de Waal’s experience of winning at Loftus Versfeld will count in the Stormers’ favour this Saturday, says Allister Coetzee.

In 2005, Rassie Erasmus looked on as his Cheetahs team beat the Bulls at Loftus to win the Currie Cup. On that occasion, De Waal started at pivot, and forever after Erasmus marvelled at the flyhalf’s kicking talent.

De Waal followed Erasmus to Cape Town at the end of last year, but received limited chances with Western Province due to injury. He obtains his first opportunity for the Stormers this Saturday against the Bulls, and Erasmus and company will be hoping his experience shines through.

Coetzee, the Stormers backline coach, has every confidence De Waal’s kicking game will match that of Bulls halfback duo Fourie du Preez and Morne Steyn. Coetzee also believes De Waal’s general play will not be found wanting against a brutish Bulls defence.

“Willem has played at Loftus many times and has won a Currie Cup there for the Cheetahs,” he told keo.co.za. “He knows what to expect from that Loftus crowd, and as far as defensive pressure is concerned, he’s used to all the Bulls can throw at him. His experience of winning at Loftus is going to be invaluable.

“Kicking has been a crucial aspect thus far, and I expect at Loftus we will see more of the same. If you look at the successful sides in this year’s competition, it’s the teams with the better territorial game. You can accuse a side like the Waratahs for winning ugly, but it’s certainly been effective.”

While Du Preez and Steyn form a crucial partnership for the Bulls, so too does that of Ricky Januarie and De Waal for the Stormers. This will be the pair’s first match as a combination, but Coetzee is adamant the two players will complement one another.

“Ricky has kicked well and I’m not sure if he deserves the criticism he received last week. We analysed his performance against the Blues and those box kicks were very accurate. It’s really a matter of turning that pressure into opportunities and points.

“If you think that the try he scored a few weeks back was from a kick, you have to say he has a sound kicking game. He will have a massive role to play at Loftus.”

Should the Stormers succeed in the battle for territory, they still face the problem of breaching a notoriously impregnable defensive line. Coetzee was reluctant to give much away, but did say the Stormers could spring a few attacking surprises in Pretoria.

“As good as their defence is, no defence is water tight. There are always leaks and cracks. We’ve identified the areas we want to exploit this Saturday,” he said.

The Stormers created a number of opportunities last week, but were undone by poor decision-making and shocking handling. While an improvement in the skill department is mandatory, the key to success will lie in their decision-making.

Saturday will reveal whether De Waal is the right man for the occasion, as with his pack under fire, he’s unlikely to receive much front-foot ball.

By Jon Cardinelli