Stormers to starve Canes

The simplest way to frustrate a dangerous attacking unit is to limit their possession, says Allister Coetzee.

On paper, the Hurricanes are an intimidating unit. Glance down the team list and you’ll note a number of All Blacks who individually have the ability to turn a game. Add to that a host of young talent capable of scoring tries from their own 22 and don’t forget about the attacking philosophy that’s earned them thousands of fans both in New Zealand and in South Africa. Form is irrelevant. You don’t take these blokes lightly.

The Stormers will be buoyed by the bonus-point win over the Highlanders, but their coach is well aware of the challenge that lies ahead. They’ve beaten the Waratahs, but this match could be season-defining ahead of their four-match Australasian tour.

Coetzee told keo.co.za he’s expecting a raise in the level of physicality with the increased number of internationals on the pitch. He’s highlighted the Canes’ penchant for the counter-attack as a threat, and has even commended their defence.

What Coetzee is banking on, however, is the Stormers’ tightness as a team. They’re still short on attacking synergy in the backs, but their defence is the best in the competition, their lineout has been commanding and their scrum has stood up to all challengers to date. If they can keep the ball, you’d have to back them as favourites at home.

‘We’ve got to front physically, but most importantly, we’ve got to retain the ball on attack,’ Coetzee told keo.co.za. ‘Teams like the Canes don’t like it when you starve them of possession.

‘People have criticised our attack and while I agree we need to start finishing those opportunities we create, I think it has to said that we are creating chances. We’re showing a lot more patience and building through more phases than ever before, and that’s going to be so crucial against the Hurricanes.’

While Coetzee praised his lineout for their contesting abilities – Deon Fourie’s try against the Highlanders was born from a lineout turnover – he pointed to the improvement as the breakdown as the biggest boost.

The Stormers conceded a number of breakdown penalties in their first three matches, but were far more disciplined against the Highlanders. Another accurate showing could be what lays the platform for a win over Kiwi opposition.

‘We have some strong players in that area, not only in the starting side but on the bench as well. We’ve been clinical and our decision-making in this department has been much improved. I’m also very impressed to see the players adapting according to the referee. You need to be able to do this.’

Captain Schalk Burger, Francois Louw and Duane Vermeulen will have important roles to play, as will powerful ball-carriers like Tiaan Liebenberg. The Stormers medical team will make the call on his availability on Tuesday, as Liebenberg missed the Highlanders match with flu. His inclusion will be a massive plus for the hosts.

While ball retention is the priority, Coetzee is relieved to know the tough Stormers defence is there should things not go their way. The Cape franchise has conceded just two tries in four games.

‘The Hurricanes really do favour an all-out attack that involves forwards linking with backs. How do you stop them? Back your defensive systems. They’ve got some great individuals, but I have a great faith in this defence. As long as we defend as a team we should be able to stop them.’

By Jon Cardinelli