Stormers bet on Bash

Reinstated flyhalf Peter Grant is the solution to the Stormers’ attacking problems according to Allister Coetzee.

The Stormers hold the joint-best defensive record having conceded 11 tries in six games. Their brilliant line work and timely scrambling have never been in question, and it’s rather their impotent attack that’s contributed to their current ninth-place log standing.

The Cape franchise have scored 16 tries in six outings, an inflated figure considering eight of those tries came against a disinterested Lions defence. Without the lashing of the Lions, they’d boast a record of eight in five, a strike rate of 1.6 tries per game.

The statistics don’t favour the Stormers as they head into Saturday’s clash as underdogs, but the restoration of the 2008 combinations will have created some hope. Coetzee told this back division should fire at the Sydney Football Stadium with Grant spearheading the assault.

‘It’s virtually the same Stormers backline that started against the Waratahs last year,’ the assistant coach said. ‘Bash is known for his tendency to have a go and ask questions of the opposition defence, and we need a player like that when we’re up against a tough Waratahs defensive combination.

‘They’re one of the top sides defensively [having conceded only 13 tries in seven games] and possess a great pack of forwards. They’re going to be tough to breach, but to penetrate their defence, you need to keep the ball. Our execution will also have to be far better than it was in Christchurch.’

The coaching staff of Rassie Erasmus, Gary Gold and Coetzee have spoken at length about synergy and balance, and how the lack thereof has contributed to this season’s failings. It is hoped Grant can provide the required balance at flyhalf, not only offering more on attack but weighing in with a sound tactical boot as well.

‘Bash has improved immensely as a kicker and I still believe he’s one of the most underrated flyhalves in South Africa,’ said Coetzee. ‘He’s not a Springbok for nothing and has the ability to make good decisions that can turn a game.

‘We let ourselves down with poor decision-making last week. Decisions like to throw a long pass when it wasn’t necessary or to kick when the wide strike was on – those are the bad decisions that can break your rhythm.

‘It’ll be a tough ask this Saturday, but I’m sure Pete will step up and give us the necessary direction. The territorial battle is crucial, but when we’re in their half, we have to penetrate their defence.’

The Sydney weather has been erratic since the Stormers arrived on Monday, and although the rain should abate before kickoff it will affect the flow of the game.

Coetzee said the Stormers have acclimatised to the conditions and so there will be no excuses should they come short against the Tahs.

‘It’s clear at the moment but it’s bound to be slippery at the SFS on Saturday night. The humidity alone will make the ball as greasy as it is in Durban,’ he said.

‘We can count ourselves lucky we prepared for most of the week in wet conditions.’

By Jon Cardinelli