Stormers

Stormers won’t be ‘stuck in the mud’

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The Stormers, despite their obvious desperation to finally get their Super 14 campaign off the ground, won’t be tempted by an ultra-conservative win-at-all-cost approach when they face the Waratahs in a Round Seven match in Sydney on Saturday.

Even the prospects of rain at Aussie Stadium won’t force the Cape players into their shells.

The Stormers’ star Springbok loose forward Schalk Burger said there will be “some” changes to the team’s approach, following their dismal performance in going down 26-13 to the Brumbies in Canberra last week.

However, despite having won just two games from six starts and falling into a now familiar win-lose-win-lose routine, he feels they still have the talent and skills to play an exciting and expansive game.

According to Burger the team is bitterly disappointed that they have undone all the hard work from earlier in the competition by not being consistent with their standards.

Having started with two defeats and then showed some improvements in beating the Chiefs, the Stormers have been largely disappointing in their first three matches of a five-match Australasian tour. It started with a very poor performance and a loss to the Highlanders, followed by good win and some encouraging progress against the Hurricanes, before falling flat again against the Brumbies last week.

“It is really tough,” Burger told this website, when asked about the team’s lack of consistency.

“We felt we really improved against the Hurricanes in certain aspects of the game, but last weekend it was all missing again. It is very frustrating, the spirit [of the team] is a bit down, but at the end of the day the competition won’t wait for you … it will go on.

“This weekend we have a big game that awaits us against the Waratahs and we have to be up for it,” said.

He said the Stormers had taken notice of how the Bulls managed to beat the Waratahs and they are also well aware of what type of rugby the Sydney-based Australian franchise plays. But that doesn’t change anything the Stormers must and plan to do.

“It doesn’t really matter what type of rugby they play,” Burger said.

“They are expecting rain on Saturday and we’ll have to make some adjustments to our game.

“Last week [against the Brumbies] we made too many mistakes in our own half, which put us under pressure and we couldn’t get out of our own half.

“As a result we had to defend a lot and didn’t have a lot of ball.”

Burger said some of the things the Bulls did in beating the Waratahs last week showed what “changes” the Stormers have t make to their own game.

“The Bulls played them very well and shut them out of the game, controlling the game. It won’t be easy, but we must put them under pressure instead of us being under pressure all the time like we were last week.”

While the Bulls have won back-to-back matches in Australia – recording historic wins over the Brumbies in Canberra and the Waratahs in Sydney – with sound defensive performance and very little possession, Burger feels the Stormers need to get hold of the ball and control it.

“Defence is always important, but we have to control the ball better. Last week we made to many errors with the ball and there were far too many turnovers. We also lost a few line-outs.

“This weekend we’ll have to be a lot sharper in all aspects of our game and hopefully we can do it.”

Burger said the Stormers won’t go the conservative route, even though they will have to play a more controlled game.

“Certainly in our own half we’ll have to take fewer risks and make fewer mistakes, but once we’ve got the ball it is important that we control the ball and then after three or four phases there will always be opportunities for individuals to produce those moments of brilliance and play their game.

“In general it is important that we have more of the ball and more patience.

“Last weekend [against the Brumbies] and in the game against the Highlanders we made too many mistakes with the ball in hand.

“However, if we have the ball in hand there are enough quality players to do great things.

“This weekend it is vital for us to get first phase possession and then control the ball.”

Burger, who came back from a career-threatening neck injury and surgery at the beginning of the season, said he is happy with his own game.

But it is the form of the team that concerns him most.

“I’m happy with my game. Obviously it is always tough when the team is not doing well and at the moment things are not going well … because we had a couple of poor games. Those are the negatives.

“It doesn’t help if you try things and the results are not there.

“The important thing for me is to keep the team together and hopefully get some wins under the belt again and enjoy ourselves again. Nobody enjoys losing and I also hate to lose, so if the team starts winning I will be a lot happier.”

Burger, the International Rugby Board (IRB) Player of the Year in 2004, was one of the stand out players for the Stormers in 2006, before his year was cruelly cut short by a horrific neck injury he suffered while playing for the Springboks against Scotland in June.

He underwent major surgery and played no rugby for the rest of the year. There were numerous reports that he may never play again, but Burger is back and determined to regain his best form.

Burger said there are no after-effects of the injury or the surgery.

“It [the neck] feels strong. The surgery was a success. If anything it has probably made me more aware of what is happening around me and being more alert at the breakdown,” he said.

By Jan de Koning 365 Digital

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