“It’s no secret, every team in Super Rugby sees our backline as a target to run at,” said De Jongh.
“They see us as light, skinny blokes and they’ll think they can outplay us physically in every aspect of the game.
Anyone who has watched the Stormers over the past two seasons will attest to the bravery of a dauntless but diminutive backline. If guts were log points, the Stormers would be two-time champions.
However, like most of the Australasian sides, the Brumbies dwarfed the Stormers backs last year and duly steam-rolled their Cape rivals in the wild card play-off at Newlands, scoring four of the visitors’ six tries in a 39-19 win.
A size disparity also factored into the Stormers’ first loss of this season.
The Stormers’ wide corps didn’t have a single player over 90kg in last week’s 18-13 reverse against the Sharks; the Durban side had three, including Andre Esterhuizen (112kg), JP Pietersen (102) and Odwa Ndungane (92).
“I had a David versus Goliath battle (against Esterhuizen),” De Jongh admitted. “But for me it’s about making sure your heart is bigger than your body.”
Even though coach Robbie Fleck took steps to beef up his team by deploying 100kg Kobus van Wyk on the right wing, it’s going to take a lot of heart for De Jongh and centre partner Johnny Kotze to stop the Brumbies’ Wallaby midfield tandem of Matt Toomua and Tevita Kuridrani (102kg) from releasing Tomane and Speight tonight.
A veteran of nine Super Rugby campaigns, De Jongh has seen both centres up close and personal.
“Matt and Tevita will put you under a lot of pressure, whether that’s ball in hand or on defence, so it’s about making sure you give yourself enough space to absorb the pressure. It’s almost like soccer - playing back to go forward.”
One way to protect an undersized backline is to win the battle in the trenches. Coach Robbie Fleck has custom-designed a plan to ambush Australia’s unbeaten flagbearers.
“We’ve reviewed last year’s play-off game several times,” said the Stormers coach.
“We were beaten hands down at the breakdown, and were well beaten by the better side on the day.
De Jongh cut the line to pull off an unexpected Currie Cup win in 2012, as WP sprung a surprise on a Springbok-laden Sharks team in the Currie Cup final. The Stormers centre believes that a similar moment of individual brilliance could swing this contest.
“In tight games like this, you need some X-factor,” he said.A loss will confirm that Fleck’s young team is at least one more season away from being able to compete with serious contenders; a victory will boost the Stormers into the championship conversation. - Saturday Star
Original source: De Jongh ready for Brumbies scrap