Stormers to mix measure with magic

The Stormers will strive for territorial dominance before attempting to penetrate the Crusaders’ formidable defence.

On 7 March, the Loftus Versfeld scoreboard exclaimed a Stormers defeat, but Rassie Erasmus declared a tactical victory. In the following match, the Stormers stuck to this game plan, attempting to pin the Lions in their own territory before sending the ball wide.

It’s a formula the coaching staff covet, and one they believe will pay dividends in Christchurch this Saturday.

‘The territorial game is crucial and that’s why having Willem de Waal and Peter Grant in the same starting line-up is hugely beneficial,’ assistant coach Gary Gold told keo.co.za.

‘Kicking has become so important under the new laws. Because the breakdown is such a lottery, attacking teams are often penalised more. In some cases, the more rugby you try to play the greater risk you run of conceding a penalty. It’s about finding the balance and deciding when to play rugby and when to kick for territory.

‘The referees aren’t at fault – you have to blame the law-makers. They’ve brought in new laws that aimed to speed the game up and encourage running rugby, but it’s had the opposite effect. Attacking teams are scared of conceding a penalty or free-kick, and often prefer to kick downfield. In opposition territory, it’s safer to launch an attack.’

Even if the Stormers manage to achieve territorial dominance, Gold admitted the Crusaders’ defence will be tough to breach. The reigning champs have conceded 10 tries in six games and, aside from the Bulls, are the best defensive unit in the 2009 tournament.

‘Defence has been at the cornerstone of their success,’ Gold said. ‘They don’t allow you a massive amount of opportunities, so you have to be sure you take every chance.

‘We have a few out-of-the-box ideas we’ve been working on. I think our backline is looking good, and I’m very excited about the combination of Willem and Bash in the 10-12 channel. It’s also good to see Jean de Villiers back at 13 – we certainly won’t be weaker in the wider channels.’

The Saders are coming off a momentum-shifting win in Sydney and despite missing Richie McCaw and a few other big names, their structures and player-depth will ensure they’re more than just competitive.

‘They will be brimming with confidence after beating the Waratahs.’ Gold said. ‘They’ve overcome a disappointing start and they’ve rediscovered the winning recipe. They are a very dangerous unit.

‘They have fantastic strength in depth. Nasi Manu is a strong player and although Casey Laulala is back they also have Kade Poki on the bench.

‘Kieran Reid is another solid player with a massive work-rate. The Crusaders struggled initially without Richie McCaw but Reid has blossomed with the added responsibility of the captaincy. Along with Manu and the good ball-carrying work of Thomas Waldrom, their back row is going to be a handful.’

By Jon Cardinelli