Stormers address problems with pressure

JON CARDINELLI speaks to assistant coach Matt Proudfoot about the Stormers’ struggles at the lineout and how they plan to improve ahead of their meeting with the Cheetahs.

Head coach Allister Coetzee has described last Saturday’s performance as the worst of the season. While accuracy and intensity were sadly lacking, the most disappointing aspect of that defeat was the Stormers’ failure to handle the pressure.

The Bulls kicked relentlessly on the Stormers’ back three, hassled the home side at the breakdown and contested strongly at the lineouts. It was in the latter facet of play where Victor Matfield showed his experience, effecting some telling steals and infiltrating the minds of the Stormers’ decision makers. As Matfield and the Bulls increased the pressure, the Stormers eventually cracked.

‘We used a new lineout system for that Bulls match and we had done our homework, but unfortunately our execution just wasn’t good enough,’ Proudfoot told keo.co.za. ‘We began to feel the pressure and obviously didn’t do a good job of dealing with it.

‘It’s something we spoke about at length when we got together at training on Tuesday. Hopefully that Bulls game will act as a learning experience. In the big games, you have to be able to handle the pressure.’

Proudfoot is confident that the Stormers will be up for the Cheetahs’ challenge in Bloemfontein this week. The central franchise has always had a reputation for their lineout prowess, and may fancy themselves after seeing the Stormers outplayed by the Bulls.

‘They’re a team that loves to mix it up. On attack they vary their play very well, and on defence they look to disrupt the opposition throw and then attack from the turnvovers.

‘It will be a very different challenge to the one we experienced at Newlands last week. The Bulls are more structured and you more or less know what to expect, but the Cheetahs are an entirely different prospect. If we don’t improve our accuracy, they will kill us with those turnovers.

‘The Cheetahs try to pressure you at the set-piece and force you to concede possession, and then that’s when a guy like [scrumhalf] Sarel Pretorius comes into play. He’s very good at getting in behind the defence and then their ball carriers are difficult to stop.’

Proudfoot said he was pleased with Stormers’ scrummaging effort in last week’s match but expects something different from the Cheetahs. The Bloemfontein side boast some impressive players in Coenie Oosthuizen, Adriaan Strauss and WP Nel, and the scrum is coached by Bok front-row legend Os du Randt.

‘We will take some momentum into this game after that solid showing against the Bulls,’ Proudfoot said. ‘It’s crucial that we do well against the Cheetahs, who are a very well coached side. I’m sure they’ll have a few tricks up their sleeve, so once again, we’ve got to handle that pressure.’

Follow JC on Twitter

Follow SA Rugby on Twitter