Vodacom Stormers coach Jerome Paarwater is happy that his pack of forwards would be able to handle whatever the Cheetahs throw at them in their opening Vodacom Super 14 match in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
His team’s detractors have yet again pointed to the tight five as a weakness in the Stormers’ armoury, but Paarwater was not prepared to bother too much about it.
“Look, the perception that we have a weak tight five have been around at Western Province for 13 years or so now. I know about that story too well and the players don’t worry too much about what people say about our tight five.
“Last year we asserted ourselves in the Super 14 and we are stronger this season – just look at our squad and the amount of depth we have. Andries Bekker played his first Super 14 last year and so did Ross Skeate. They are stronger now and have the experience of a Super 14 behind their backs.”
Paarwater said the Stormers gave a lot of attention to their scrummaging, in particular coming to grips with the new laws. He reckons the new laws will be working to their advantage.
“In the past the guys could ‘steal’ a bit on the hit, but with the long delay that gets taken out of the equation. Now you cannot just hit in and scrum. It is more about technique and fortunately technique is something we’ve been working on for a while now.”
The former WP flank said with the new laws scrums would be more about technique than about brute power. “I think we have good scrumming technique and teams won’t easily scrum us backwards. Last year we managed a reasonable amount of turnovers in scrums, also in the Currie Cup, and with the new laws we are ahead of our competitors and it suits us well.”
Paarwater said the depth in the pack would ensure healthy competition for places in the match 22. “We have, for instance, a guy such as Gerrie Britz who won’t be in the starting 22 this weekend. He is a Springbok and we are one of the few Super 14 teams who have that type of ‘luxury’.
“It proves we have quality players in our tight five. Brok Harris is also on the bench this weekend and he came through well in the Currie Cup. The competition for the tighthead prop starting berth between him and Eddie Andrews will be very interesting.
“He will keep Eddie on his toes and when Brok gets a chance to start, he would want to show his value and make a difference.”
Paarwater has a healthy respect for the Cheetahs, particularly their pack, but said his side would not be overawed by the home side on Saturday. “We respect them, as we know they have a good side and they have done well in the Currie Cup over the past two seasons.
“We are not taking any credit away from them, but that motivates us to be at our best on Saturday. We are not going to make it easy for the Cheetahs. It will be difficult, but we are going there to win the game.
“They, and everybody else, think they have a good chance of beating us up front, but I feel things can work for us with what we’ve put in place thus far. Against Boland there were some good signs. Where they in the past managed to spoil our possession and sometimes dominated us, this time round we played well to the ball and our ball control was good. We’ve worked a lot on our contact play, but on Saturday we will see whether it is good enough.”
Paarwater said he would be very happy if the Stormers on Saturday could prevent the Cheetahs from getting momentum with their driving play from lineouts and restarts. “In the past they have used the rolling maul very effectively against us and if we can neutralize them on Saturday I would be very happy.”