The Vodacom Stormers are ready for a fierce onslaught from the Western Force in their Vodacom Super 14 match at Newlands on Friday night.
Coach Kobus van der Merwe says the Force is a stronger combination than last year, when they participated in the Super 14 for the first time. “I think they have a lot of extra depth in their squad, although you can see they are still in a building phase,” said the coach.
“You could see in their game against the Highlanders their combinations are not gelling 100% yet. They are very dangerous. We had a narrow victory against them in Perth. Six of their seven backs are Wallabies and Nathan Sharpe is an experienced guy.
“They are tough opposition and people don’t realize how many strides they made in last year’s competition. They were unlucky to loose a few games. There are no easy games in this competition.”
Van der Merwe singled out Wallaby star Matt Giteau as the danger man. “James Hilgendorf is probably their best flyhalf at the moment. If they pick their strongest backline it would be Hilgendorf and then Matt at 12, but Giteau is an outstanding rugby player.
“He has pace, great feet, good vision and he is very dangerous at 10. He is certainly one of the guys we need to watch carefully.”
Asked what he expects from the visitors, Van der Merwe said there were a lot of similarities in the two team’s style of play. “They play very similar to us. They are not scared to have a go from their own 22.
“I watched their friendly match against the Crusaders in Perth. In that match they also had a full go. They like to spread the ball and play a lot off the top from the lineout. They also enjoy a high tempo game,” explained Van der Merwe.
Rain and strong winds are predicted for Friday night, but Van der Merwe said he was not planning any tactical changes to his side in case of inclement weather.
“I don’t think so, I’m quite happy with the selection irrespective of the weather. I must say it would probably work in our favour that we have Gerrie (Britz) and Francios (van der Merwe) if it is a wet weather game.
“I think it will suit both of them and certainly we have Conrad (Jantjes) on the wing – who has played a lot of fullback – and between him and Breyton (Paulse) they kick the ball well out of hand, so I am quite happy with that.”
Explaining what went wrong against the Cheetahs last weekend, Van der Merwe said with so many game-breakers in the team it was easy for the players to expect a team-mate to make things happen.
“There are so many stars that can turn things around. But we still got to do the hard yards, the ball retention and physicality is a really important aspect of rugby.
“The old cliché is so true: you got to dominate up front in every game to really make an impact. We have fantastic outside backs, but we need quality ball to do things.
“The tight five realized after the video session just how much we still can improve there. It is just a matter of getting mentally right for the game.”
Teams for Newlands:
Vodacom Stormers: 15. Gio Aplon, 14. Breyton Paulse, 13. Corne Uys, 12. Jean de Villiers, 11. Conrad Jantjes, 10. Naas Olivier, 9. Bolla Conradie, 8. Joe van Niekerk, 7. Schalk Burger, 6. Luke Watson (captain), 5. Andries Bekker, 4. Gerrie Britz, 3. Eddie Andrews, 2. Schalk Brits, 1. JD Moller.
Reserves: 16. Tiaan Liebenberg, 17. Brok Harris, 18. Francois van der Merwe, 19. Robbie Diack, 20. JP Joubert, 21. Brent Russell, 22. De Wet Barry.
Western Force: 15 Drew Mitchell, 14 Scott Staniforth, 13 Ryan Cross, 12 Junior Palesasa, 11 Cameron Shepherd, 10 Matt Giteau, 9 Matt Henjak, 8 Scott Fava, 7 Richard Brown, 6 David Pusey, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Rudi Vedelago, 3 Troy Takiari, 2 Brendan Cannon, 1 Gareth Hardy.
Reserves: 16 Tai McIsaac, 17 Angus Scott, 18 Luke Doherty, 19 David Pocock, 20 Chris O’Young, 21 Scott Daruda, 22 Haig Sare.
Referee: Lyndon Bray (New Zealand).