Robbie Fleck believes defence will trump attack when the Stormers battle the Reds on Friday.
The Stormers showed signs of a more balanced approach in their comfortable win over the Blues, and delivered a total performance in their subsequent hammering of the Chiefs. The pack laid the platform and the backline took their opportunities with spectacular results. For the most part, their trademark defence frustrated the Chiefs’ attack.
The match at Suncorp Stadium will require another shift in mindset given the opposition. The Reds are far more structured than the free-running Blues and Chiefs, as they use their impressive pack to pound teams into submission before giving it to their quick backs to finish. They scored an upset over the title-holding Bulls last week and, according to the local media, are within sight of yet another South African scalp.
Stormers captain Schalk Burger told this website on Wednesday he expects the Reds to keep ball in hand in an attempt to avoid the Cape team’s lineout. If they manage to hang onto possession for substantial periods of time, the Stormers could be in trouble, but Fleck said they have no choice but to back a defensive system that’s only conceded 11 tries in the tournament.
‘Their natural inclination is to run the ball, and we saw how they moved the Bulls pack around last week,’ he told keo.co.za. ‘They tired out the Bulls and got them to make mistakes, an approach they will feel works well against South African teams.
‘We have noted this, but we haven’t changed much in terms of our preparations. They will try to get their explosive runners into the game but we back our systems. It’s going to be a case of the best attack playing the best defence on Friday, but as we’ve shown this season, we have what it takes to stop good attacking teams.’
Much has been written about the twin threat at halfback, and Fleck admitted Will Genia and Quade Cooper were discussed extensively when planning for this fixture.
‘They’re the dominant force at halfback in this tournament, so of course you have to plan for them. The Reds look to them to perform so we know that if we put them under pressure defensively, we can limit their attack.
‘It’s obviously easier said than done. Cooper’s got a fantastic step and does some crazy things, he’s like a young Carlos Spencer. Both Cooper and Genia are quality players, but I believe we have the personnel to deal with them.’
The local media have talked up this clash as the match of the tournament, and Fleck confirmed the Stormers players are as excited as some of the spectators to get this match underway.
‘There’s a lot of hype around this game. We’d love to conclude the second part of our campaign with a win, as it would set us up nicely for the home leg. The guys are excited to take on arguably the form team of the competition, and are well aware of the magnitude of this match.
‘Both teams are structured, but both teams also have the freedom to attack within those structures. Our guys have been making some good decisions; they’ve cut out the miracle passes and executed efficiently. We’ll need that accuracy and composure against the Reds.
‘It’s hard to say whether it’ll be a great running game or a tough grind up front. I feel it’ll be a bit of both. It’s another physical battle up front but then there’s also the threat out wide, so either way you look at it, the defence will have to be sound.’
By Jon Cardinelli