JON CARDINELLI says that Dewaldt Duvenage’s snappy service will provide the Stormers with some much needed impetus against the Highlanders.
Any coach will take two from two, but the try-scoring stats must be a cause for concern. The Stormers have scored one pushover try in 160 minutes of rugby. One try is the best they’ve managed against the Lions and Cheetahs, two of the three worst defensive sides in the 2010 Super 14.
Coach Allister Coetzee lamented a lack of energy following the Stormers’ lacklustre win against the Cheetahs. Changes were always going to be made following that terrible showing at Newlands. After recovering from a knee injury, Gio Aplon has been selected, but even he will rely on his forwards to lay the platform and his scrumhalf to translate gain-line dominance into quality backline ball.
While the Stormers’ forwards have been inconsistent this season, Januarie has been consistently disappointing in his primary roles as a distributor and alternate tactical kicker. It surprised to see him getting a starting chance given his form in recent years. Januarie was first shunted to the Stormers bench at the end of the 2009 season, and 2010 saw Duvenage making that No 9 berth his own.
Januarie is favoured for his busts from the base, but if you break down his performances, his high error count and late arrival at the breakdown costs his team momentum. This in turn robs the Stormers of the opportunity to pressure defences and create try-scoring opportunities. Duvenage may be less robust and flashy, but it’s his ability to execute the basics at high speed that has allowed the backline to succeed in previous seasons.
Duvenage started 12 of the Stormers’ 15 games last year, and in that time the team conceded just three defeats. Whether he was a starter or a substitute, he had a profound effect on the Cape side’s try-scoring potential. They scored 26 out of a season total of 39 tries when he was on the park.
While his timing and precision can influence the attack, his decision-making isn’t to be underestimated. Duvenage gives the Stormers a great tactical kicking option, meaning the Cape side can switch between the ball-in-hand approach and the drive for territory. This in turn eases the pressure on flyhalf Peter Grant, and has the opposition defence in two minds.
A lot of people expect the Stormers to come out running on Friday, but to embrace an all-out expansive approach would be foolish. Duvenage will put some pace onto the ball and Aplon will provide the penetration out wide, but the Stormers can’t afford to be too loose against a team like the Highlanders.
Their 2010 success was built on a powerful forward effort. Gain-line dominance will again be crucial in the coming fixture, and Duvenage has an important role to play in wearing down the Highlanders defence. While he won’t threaten the defence at the fringes like Januarie, he will ensure the Stormers control possession and keep moving forward.
The stat of one try in two matches is disappointing but not as concerning as the Stormers’ inability to control possession and build an attack of substance. Now that the Stormers have their key attacking cog back in place, you’d expect the attacking machine to run a lot better. They should play the game that proved so effective in 2010, and once the Highlanders defence has cracked, the tries will come.