Stormers

‘The Sharks showed us how to do it’

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Stormers coach Kobus van der Merwe has pointed to the manner of the Sharks victory over the Blues as an indicator of how to beat the team whom he believes to be the best in the competition.

Van der Merwe said on Tuesday that the only way to describe the Super 14 is as “strange, and unpredictable”.

“We went out and beat the Hurricanes convincingly; the Hurricanes then dominated the Bulls, and then the Bulls managed to completely dominate us.

“That’s the nature of the competition. But if you are able to find a measure of consistency amidts this, that’s how you become a top four side.

“Unfortunately, this element of consistency has evaded us.

“If I could put my finger on the exact reason I would be a happy man.

“But I do put it down to lack of cohesiveness between the various units within the side – sometimes the tight five fires and the loose trio doesn’t; sometimes the backs don’t fire. Often there is a lack of concentration.”

The coach pointed out that it was unforced errors that cost his side being competitive against the Bulls – crucial penalties conceded often costing them seven points, as well as a lack of ball retention.

But the Stormers coach pointed out that his side would eclipse their total points garnered from last year, as well as the significant improvement of individuals such as Peter Grant, Justin Melck, Brok Harris and Andries Bekker as positive signs.

But Van der Merwe was confident for the Blues game, and well he should be. The Stormers have always been a handful for tournament leaders, especially at home, and are due for a win after last weekend’s loss, as, besides a first round loss, have won and lost with pendulum-like consistency.

“The Blues are beatable.

“The Sharks showed that if you are in their faces on defence, and shut them down in midfield, you can subdue their free-flowing game.

“They love to play open rugby, offloading in the tackle and keeping the momentum with their runners.

“The Sharks played them in wet conditions, but nevertheless they showed how to counter that game.

“I thought the Sharks kicked particularly well and nullified their countering with an effective chase-line.”

The Stormers do however have some injury concerns.

Dylan des Fountain is out with an ankle injury, whilst Andries Bekker is out with a lower back injury. Brent Russell is also being monitored, but may play if able to train.

On the brighter side, Jean de Villiers, Eddie Andrews and Egon Seconds are all available for selection.

Meanwhile, Van der Merwe has rubbished any reports that his substitution of Luke Watson is a pointer to disharmony within their team.

“I think it is really sad that the media in the Cape is more interested in splitting this side than supporting them. They don’t actually want us to do well.

“Luke was struggling with a niggle all of last week, and, after the game was lost, and it was decided to make substitutions, it was logical to replace him.

“Other skippers such as Richie McCaw and John Smit get subbed too.

“There is a fantastic spirit in the side, and there is nothing wrong with my faith in Luke as a leader, or with our relationship as captain and coach.”

The Stormers face the Blues on Saturday at Newlands in Cape Town.

By Chris Waldburger 365 Digital

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