Allister Coetzee says the Stormers must sharpen their attack if they hope to push for a Super Rugby title in 2012.
The Cape franchise qualified for the play-offs in 2010 and 2011 but have nevertheless been criticised for an overly defensive approach. While the current laws favour a side with a solid defensive system and strong territorial game, the best teams take their attacking opportunities once they’re in the red zone.
The Crusaders and Reds are excellent examples of Super Rugby teams that boast strong tactical kickers who know how to boss territory, while both units’ defence and attack are top drawer. At international level, the All Blacks lead the way in terms of tactical kicking and defence, while their powerful, skillful runners enjoy having a crack deep in enemy territory.
The Stormers have come a long way since the 2007 season where they lacked the forward platform or the tactical savvy to perform consistently. Over the past four years, they have improved in the forwards and established themselves as the best defensive side in the competition.
Where they have underperformed is in the attacking department. The team of 2010 showed signs of improvement, with some breathtaking displays on their Australasian tour and in a home fixture against a strong Crusaders outfit.
2011, however, was less prosperous, as while they captured the South African conference trophy, they fell in the semi-finals. The postmortem would show that of the areas where they underperformed, attack was right up there.
Coetzee has targeted another conference title, as he views it as the crucial stepping stone to the overall trophy itself. But he has conceded that the attacking play needs to be sharper. The Stormers must take their opportunities if they hope to finish the league stage at the top.
‘Defence is a strength of ours, and we have been working hard in the off-season to ensure we maintain our own high standards,’ he said.
‘I felt the attack improved in the 2011 Super Rugby tournament, and was pleased with the way the youngsters attacked in the subsequent Currie Cup. Hopefully we can put it all together and play a more balanced game in 2012, because scoring tries is important in a competition like Super Rugby, those bonus points can be crucial. Having said that, the pre-season training has been going well and we’ve implemented some new plans in this regard.’
While the Stormers won’t employ a run-from-all-parts-of-the-pitch approach, they will look to cash in on their chances once in opposition territory. This suggests that their appointed flyhalf will be under more pressure than ever, as he will not only be tasked with kicking them into good areas but also generating scoring opportunities in the red zone. In short, the Stormers will want an all-rounder at No 10.
Peter Grant is in Japan for his second stint with the club Kobe Steelers and will miss the pre-season as a result. Grant has never been recognised as a strong tactical kicker for the simple reason that he can’t kick the ball far enough to place the opposition under pressure. While he is likely to be favoured as the No 1 flyhalf when he returns to Cape Town next month, the duties will fall to one of the Stormers’ youngsters in the interim.
A fit Gary van Aswegen seems likely to front Boland in Wellington in the Stormers’ first warm-up, and it will be interesting to see how he goes in this dual role. Following this fixture, Coetzee will have three more to test other pivots like Burton Francis, Kurt Coleman, Demetri Katrakilis and possibly even Tim Swiel.
By Jon Cardinelli