DHL Stormers captain Jean de Villiers has called for accuracy from his charges when they take on the Blues in Albany tomorrow morning (09h35 SA time).
The Stormers started their tour with an 18-16 win over the Hurricanes in New Plymouth last Friday and they are hoping to make it two from two at the North Harbour Stadium against a very talented Blues outfit.
Both the Blues and the Stormers have played eight Super Rugby games so far in 2013; both franchises winning four and losing four.
“They’ve got a good mix of exciting young talent and experience, with Piri Weepu and Rene Ranger bringing the experience,” said De Villiers from Auckland when asked about the make-up of the Blues team.
“They’ve got a quality backline – players who can run and step – like all New Zealand teams do. They don’t seem to like structure, they like an open game, so we know we are going to have to do a lot of tackling. The challenge will be to make sure that we make completed tackles or we know we could be in trouble.”
The Blues won just four matches in 2012, as they finished 12th on the Super Rugby log, but De Villiers warned that his team would be up against a vastly-improved combination under the guidance of legendary former All Black John Kirwan.
“I think last year hurt them a lot and they are trying to make up for that. They also have a good coach in John Kirwan, and I think they’ve done really well with what they have been doing,” said De Villiers.
“They have a quality backline that can hurt you. Even though they don’t like structure, they haven’t conceded a lot of tries. In fact, they’re just behind us when it comes to tries conceded.
“Normally attacking teams leak a lot of tries but not these guys. But we’ve had good results against them and we almost see this as the big game of the year. We haven’t even mentioned pressure, which wouldn’t be in our thought process anyway. But we do realise the position we’re in. It makes every game an important one from you on. If we slip up in the next couple of weeks we’ll find it very tough.
“Having said that, the log is getting more jammed in the middle (there), with a lot of what you could call ‘funny’ results every single weekend. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the points you need to squeeze into the play-off bracket was a bit lower this year.”
Last weekend’s game in New Plymouth was played in windy conditions, with less wind expected at the North Harbour Stadium in Albany tomorrow – a first-time Super Rugby venue for the Stormers. Either way, however, the conditions in Albany could have a bearing on the encounter.
“We don’t quite know what the weather is going to do on Friday,” admitted the DHL Stormers skipper.
“We have heard it will be dry, but we’ve also heard it might be wet. Wednesday was a lovely day – one of the best days (weather-wise) I have ever experienced in New Zealand. But it’s good to know that we have the players who can deal with whatever weather materialises.
“We have often lost tactical games played in the sort of weather we experienced last week (in Palmerston North) and, yet, this time we actually won the tactical game, and a lot of that credit must go to Dewaldt (Duvenage) and Gary (van Aswegen), as well as Joe Pietersen at fullback,” he said.
“It’s also great having Elton (Jantjies) back – having that kind of competition (for selection) at halfback can never be a bad thing.”
Pietersen missed just two kicks at goal for the Stormers last week, scoring eight valuable points with his accurate right boot – in conditions which did not suit the kickers.
When asked about Pietersen’s goalkicking form, which has already seen him rack up 97 points this season, a pleased De Villiers added: “That’s what rugby’s about – putting points on the board.
“Joe’s been able to keep the scoreboard rolling, which keeps pressure on the opposition. He’s been very good for us.”