Foley hails ‘shrewd’ Stormers attack
17 May 2012
Waratahs coach Michael Foley believes the Stormers’ imposing defence creates attacking opportunities and that the Cape side will be doubly dangerous this Saturday.
The Stormers have been widely criticised for their lack of four-try bonus points as well as the overall impotency of their attack. They have the second-worst try-scoring record in the competition (17), and it may very well impact on their final place in the Super Rugby league.
Statistically, they’re the best defensive outfit having only conceded 11 tries in 10 matches. Their physicality at the tackle has become something of a trademark, and they haven’t lost too many battles at the gainline.
This physical superiority has also created scoring opportunities albeit from the turnover, and had they been more clinical they may well have collected more tries and bonus points.
Foley pointed this out when he fronted the media in Cape Town on Thursday. There is a perception that the Stormers are not creating enough chances with ball-in-hand, a point coach Allister Coetzee countered on Wednesday by stating that poor execution rather than a lack of innovation is the problem.
Foley agreed that the Stormers are a dangerous outfit, and that their fearsome defence can lead to point-scoring opportunities.
‘I believe their attack is very shrewd,’ said Foley. ‘They’re very clever the way they build the pressure with their defensive game and then captialise on errors. It’s hardly a poor attack. We’re going to have to be consistent for 80 minutes if we’re going to deny them opportunities.’
Foley has made several changes to the pack that started against the Bulls last week. While talismanic hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau is unlikely to be back from injury, Foley is confident the visiting eight will stand up to the might of the Stormers.
‘We always thought it was going to be a difficult period playing three games in 12 days, so player rotation has come into play. A guy like Wycliff Palu is on the bench and will feature later in the game. Tatafu may miss out, but John [Ulugia] picked up some good momentum against the Bulls last week.’
The Stormers will field a new back-row combination this week after losing Nizaam Carr to injury. Carr is the fourth loose forward to be seriously injured after Schalk Burger, Duane Vermeulen and Nick Koster were confined to the sideline.
Siya Kolisi, Rynhardt Elstadt and Canadian Jebb Sinclair will pack down at the back of the scrum this week, but Foley said he doesn’t expect the Stormers’ set-piece challenge or in-your-face physicality to be any less brutal.
‘I’ve been hugely impressed with the way they’ve coped with injuries. Schalk is a great player and Duane is one of the most underrated players in the world. But after those guys became unavailable, the next guy stepped up and the Stormers didn’t lose any of that physicality or go-forward. It’s been a special effort.
‘Whoever controls possession will control the game, and we know what to expect at the set piece. Tiaan Liebenberg is a powerful player at the scrum and an accurate thrower at the lineout, which is something I can really respect being a former [Wallabies] hooker. His combination with Andries Bekker, who is the premier lock in South Africa at the moment, has been crucial. The Stormers have a great lineout and their mauling is another exceptional area of their game.’
Aside from the changes to the pack, Foley has also preferred scrumhalf Brendan McKibbin’s all-round skill set to the explosive running of Sarel Pretorius. Given the nature of this clash, and the fact that wet weather is forecast for Saturday’s game, Foley hopes the tactics will pay off.
‘South African teams always boast a good set piece and a good tactical kicking game. We feel that in Brendan and Berrick [Barnes] we have two strong kickers but also two strong passers. It will give us options between kicking and moving the ball,’ he said.
By Jon Cardinelli