The Vodacom Super 14 match against the Highlanders on Saturday at Newlands will be the acid test for the resurgent Vodacom Stormers pack.
That is the view of Stormers forwards coach Jerome Paarwater. The Stormers pack was widely tipped to be their Achilles heel in this year’s competition, but thus far they have more than held their own against the Cats, Waratahs and Brumbies.
Paarwater rates the Highlanders pack as the best scrumming unit in the competition and expects them to be the biggest test for his pack thus far.
“I think they are the best pack of forwards in the competition as far as scrumming is concerned. They will be a big test for our forwards this weekend,” said the former WP loose-forward.
“If we do well against them, I think we would be in a position where we can say our hard work showed dividends. They have players such as Anton Olivier and Carl Hayman who have played many Super 12 and 14 matches and also tests. Their pack has been together for a long time.
“They scrummed well against the Cheetahs. The Cheetahs have a very big pack and they gave them a go. So this weekend will be the acid test for us.”
Paarwater said the Stormers management right from the start was under no illusion that it would take for the young pack to gel as a unit. “It is a good thing that the pack is almost the same one that played in the Currie Cup.
“We definitely do not say that this pack is the finished article yet, there is always room for improvement. There were a few shortcomings in our play in the three games and we need to improve in those areas.”
Talking about the areas of concern, Paarwater mentioned the scrums as one of them. “It is not huge problems… it is just that at times the guys lose concentration in the scrums and then we concede an unnecessary penalty.
“Then we allow the opposition at times to wheel us. But those are things we can counter. It is just that at times in games the players lose concentration.”
He added that the Stormers on Friday gave the Brumbies poor possession from scrums four or five times and he was happy with that.
Another aspect Paarwater feels the Stormers should improve on is the handling of the opposition’s kick-offs.
Meanwhile there is serious concern over the fitness of Andries Bekker, whose lock combination with Ross Skeate has played a big role in the resurgence of the Stormers pack.
Bekker has a torn abdominal muscle and has been given until Thursday to prove his fitness.