Pretoria News

Stormers take aim at ‘edgy stuff’ to combat Connacht


THEIR job is just this weekend. Nothing lies beyond tomorrow afternoon.

That is the mental approach the Stormers will take ahead of their United Rugby Championship (URC) semi-final with Connacht at the Cape Town Stadium (4pm kick-off).

Although there will be a chance to achieve back-to-back berths in the final of the URC, the defending champions are wary of looking too far into the future just to come unstuck against a tricky Connacht side.

“We got a get-out-of-jail card last week with that result,” coach John Dobson said this week, referring to his side's home semi after Connacht dumped Ulster out of the competition.

“In these very tough economic times and the area where we are, most of our fans are not very affluent. So, the people coming out in their numbers, the over 44 000 of last week and hopefully over 40 000 this week, we have to fight and take that responsibility.

“We might not be here again, and the people have taken their money to come and support us – there are so many alternatives (they could have spent their money on).

“We feel the weight of that. People choosing us, it means the world to the team. Even if we are not fighting for a home final, that's out of our control.

But we have to put in a performance.”

It will be the first time the two teams face off at the Cape Town Stadium, having previously played in Galway and Stellenbosch.

And although the Stormers will be more equipped to handle what the stadium turf and weather could bring tomorrow, the Irish club has shown their adaptability this season.

They can easily play an expansive game, bringing their backline into play, while the win against Ulster was built on a solid defence and excellent dominance at the breakdown.

“We are quite impressed with their last two seasons, they play a really good attacking brand of rugby, and I have a lot of respect for them doing it in those conditions they play in most weeks at home,” Dobson said.

“But they have seemed to get a little more pragmatic lately. A bit tighter, their attack is not quite as wide.

“I know they think they can get around us, every team that plays against our sort of rush (defence) thinks there's space around us. That is something we look forward to.” According to Dobson, they learned a lot from that Ulster-Connacht quarter-final and are preparing for a massive breakdown battle.

He especially highlighted Connacht's ability to frustrate teams around the breakdown, and it's something the Stormers will be paying close attention to this weekend.

This week, the team trained in the searing Stellenbosch heat with the assistance of one of SA Rugby's top referees, Cwengile Jadezweni.

“We have to clear up a couple of things around the breakdown because if we look at the Ulster picture clearly, we saw that if you can't protect your ball and get the cleaners in, you can't keep the ball,” the Stormers mentor said.

“It's edgy stuff we are looking at.” Dobson is concerned with how the playing surface will hold up after the rain and two captain's practice sessions today, but his team should be able to navigate those pitfalls as they are more accustomed to the pitch.

They will be looking to land the first punch when it comes to scrums and rolling mauls as the defending team, when they are under pressure, struggle to find their feet to keep the attacking team at bay.





African News Agency