Cape skipper demands sharper showing

Jean de Villiers admits the backs have let the Stormers down in recent matches and is adamant that Friday’s game will witness a more creative and clinical performance.

The Stormers may have beaten the Hurricanes by 13 points in their first match, but the result was in the balance for much of the contest. Had they wilted under the pressure in the second half, they may have been made to rue a series of missed scoring chances against a team that was at one stage down to 13 men.

The second match against the Sharks was even less productive from an attacking viewpoint, as the Stormers failed to score any tries and only won the game through a 78th-minute penalty by Peter Grant. Again, the backline attack was poor, with shoddy handling and a general lack of creativity hampering the Stormers’ momentum.

It is not a statement made by an outside observer, but a feeling shared within the Stormers camp. Grant told the media earlier this week that the backs are determined to right the wrongs, and captain De Villiers also believes the men in the wider channels will need to start pulling their weight.

‘The forwards have really pulled us through the last two games, so it’s time to do our part,’ said De Villiers. ‘The forwards have performed well as a unit but we haven’t seen the same synergy from the backs. We’ve got to create chances and convert them, and to do that we have to put in a big effort and make good decisions.’

After that narrow win over the Sharks, coach Allister Coetzee said that the lack of backline synergy was to be expected.

Coetzee reasoned that scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage hadn’t enjoyed much game time in the pre-season and that centre Juan de Jongh would also need time to settle after returning from a jaw injury. De Villiers added that with more time this backline would become an ‘exciting’ attacking force.

With Grant returning to the starting side this week, the Stormers backline will boast a more familiar and settled look. However, there will also be more pressure on this back division to perform given their underwhelming showings in the first two matches.

Coetzee expects a sharper performance but said that the team shouldn’t lose sight of the bigger picture. Once again, the Stormers pack will be expected to outmuscle their opponents. From there, the backs will need to use that platform to create and convert scoring chances.

‘You have to be direct first, you have to win that gainline battle,’ Coetzee said. ‘We’ve seen a few sides in this competition trying to attack before they’ve laid the platform, and what’s happened is that their attack is very lateral and ineffective. The Blues have a strong defence and really look to pressure you at the set piece and breakdowns, so you have to match them physically.

‘They tried to disrupt us last year in these areas, so we will have to be wary. We have to make sure our physicality and execution are of a high standard if we are going to build continuity.’

The Stormers will need to be accurate at the breakdown if they are going to prevent the Blues from turning over possession. They will also need to be wary of referee Glen Jackson, who like all Super Rugby officials has a mandate to police the attacking breakdowns to the letter of the law.

De Villiers said that the referee’s strict approach won’t hamper an attack providing the team adapts to the official’s interpretations and makes the right decisions.

‘The Bulls have shown this season that you can play rugby with ball in hand in that big win over the Cheetahs. The Chiefs have also attacked very well, so it goes to show rugby remains rugby no matter the law changes. There will always be chances to score points,’ he said.

By Jon Cardinelli