Joel Stransky believes the Stormers will have to produce moments of magic from deep if they’re to upset the Bulls on Saturday.
Much has been written about the respective strengths of the sides in the build-up to the all-South African final. Fourie du Preez and Morne Steyn’s kicking prowess will ensure they better Dewaldt Duvenage and Peter Grant in that aspect and should ensure two contrasting styles to the climax of the competition in Soweto.
The Stormers have carried much more ball than the Bulls during the league stages (the Stormers made 8919m in 13 games compared to the Bulls’ 6807m), while most of that has been done from the Stormers’ own territory. The Bulls have the luxury of an astute kicking game, hence the fact they they’ve spent 27.9% of the time playing in their opposition 22, compared to the Stormers’ figure standing at 17.2%.
Although the Stormers will have to be pragmatic and not as frantic as the Crusaders were last week, Stransky told keo.co.za eventually they’ll have to risk running from deep. It just depends when they do it and how they vary their play to surprise the Bulls.
‘Early on, I think the nerves will be there and as it’s a final, the Stormers will be sensible and play for territory and kick back. For the first 15 to 20 minutes, they’ll try force the Bulls back, but will be hoping for each side’s kicking to cancel each other out.
‘Ultimately, the Bulls will win that battle and at some point the Stormers will realise they have to have a go from deep. I’m sure they’ll be a lot smarter than the way the Saders tried to play and they wont’ be as predictable and go from the first whistle.
‘But once the nerves settle, and if the Stormers are to win, they’ll have to run from their own territory. They’ll need two tries from deep to secure enough of a lead. Otherwise, if they get into a kicking battle, the Bulls’ slow poison will have the same effect its had on other teams.’
Allister Coetzee has talked up the importance of the kicking battle. In the Stormers’ last trip to face the Bulls on the Highveld in the Super 14, they kicked virtually every time they had the ball in the opening hour as Willem de Waal was at flyhalf. That tactic was used to see off the effects of altitude and a second-half comeback nearly saw them sneak a win (they eventually went down 14-10).
With Peter Grant preferred to De Waal in the No 10 jersey, Stransky believes that approach won’t work on Saturday.
‘They’ll have to do something different to last time, for the simple reason that that’s not the way they’ve played this season. What’s made them successful has been their carrying, their running of angles, the way Peter controls the game with ball in hand, and their counter-attacking. The weakest part of their game is probably their kicking.’
The visitors will only arrive in Johannesburg on Friday evening after finishing preparations with their captain’s practice in Cape Town. They won’t train at what will be a new venue for all the players at Orlando Stadium until the day of the game, but Stransky doesn’t believe it will influence their fortunes.
‘It’s a matter of what suits the team. It doesn’t make a huge difference where you have your captain’s run. The kickers, hookers and locks will have to take a look around to get a feeling of the stadium according to their various departments and familiarise themselves.
‘For the kickers, the nice thing at Orlando is the stands are close to pitch, which is similar to Newlands. That actually makes it easier for kickers, who will pick a spot or person in the crowd when going for touch or poles. As that spot is closer, it should make it easier.’
By Grant Ball, in Johannesburg