Test of discipline for breakdown bandits

JON CARDINELLI says that while the Bulls have been inconsistent at the tackle, the Stormers will be equally wary about conceding breakdown penalties at Newlands.

The Stormers were one of the more disciplined sides in 2010, and after 14 games in the 2011 Super Rugby tournament, they’ve conceded 140 penalties. By comparison, the Bulls have conceded a debilitating 183.

While that figure covers all facets of play, they have struggled for accuracy and discipline at the breakdown. It’s little surprise that the Stormers have conceded fewer penalties and won more matches. Had the Bulls been more accurate, they may not be in such a precarious position.

Opensider Deon Stegmann has come in for a lot of criticism, and deservedly so. The Bulls’ No 6 has conceded 22 penalties, a figure that goes some way to justifying concerns that he’s battled under the breakdown law interpretations. He still makes some important turnovers, but when he gets it wrong, he costs his team territory and points.

The Stormers’ Francois Louw has started one more match than Stegmann and conceded 16 penalties. Stegmann is recognised as a classic opensider, and with the change to the breakdown laws, this type of player has become something of an endangered species. Louw is more an all-rounder than a specialist, as he boasts other strengths aside from those on the ground.

Louw will give the Stormers multiple options when they host the Bulls this Saturday, but there will be a big focus on the discipline of the respective packs. It’s bound to be a typically bloody derby, and while the bigger boys are slugging it out, Louw and Stegmann will employ all sorts of tricks to give their side the edge.

The game will be refereed by one of the world’s best in Jonathan Kaplan, who’s unlikely to tolerate much nonsense at the breakdown. The pressure’s on Louw and Stegmann to walk the line of legality, as a poor decision and resultant penalty could cost their teams dearly in a close game.

Of the two flankers, Stegmann has struggled for consistency, and he will struggle once again if his team fails to get front-foot ball. The Stormers were dominant at the collisions in the last match between the two sides, and this dominance forced the Bulls to concede twice as many penalties overall.

Peter Grant was on hand that day to convert the pressure into points, but it’s yet to be confirmed whether he will play in this fixture or not. If the Stormers do manage to replicate their earlier effort, Kurt Coleman will need to cash in on those opportunities.

Coleman kicked five-out-of-six last week, but there’s a big difference between the pressure in a Stormers vs Rebels match and a Stormers vs Bulls derby. Newlands is sold out, and there is much more at stake.

The Bulls are fortunate to have Morne Steyn in their ranks, as his goal-kicking accuracy will allow them to take most opportunities on offer. Nobody will have forgotten the penalty kick in the 2009 Currie Cup semi-final at Newlands that ended Western Province’s domestic hopes. It was an extremely difficult attempt from the right-hand touchline and some 45m out, but Steyn’s success served to show that when he’s in form, he’ll punish you from anywhere.

The Stormers must be favourites to boss the collisions, but they need to be accurate in their approach to the breakdown. And if the Bulls are on the back foot and Stegmann does impede, they need to ensure that they don’t miss point-scoring opportunities because Steyn won’t be as generous at the other end.

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