Stormers must sort out scrums, lineouts


And that is where their main focus will be when they take on the Cheetahs at Newlands on Saturday (3pm kickoff).

They were blown up time and again by New Zealand referee Ben O’Keeffe in the scrums during last weekend’s 17-13 defeat to the Bulls at Loftus, with loosehead prop Oli Kebble in particular being singled out regularly in his duel with Marcel van der Merwe.

And while not all those calls were necessarily correct, it is up to the Stormers to sort things out if there is a problem with the referee. Similarly at the lineouts, there were a few occasions when the Bulls sacked the maul illegally and the referee missed it.

The Cheetahs may utilise similar tactics to try and disrupt the Cape side on attack on Saturday, so it will be up to captain Frans Malherbe and company to come up with solutions during the game if the Stormers are to arrest their three-match winless streak before the June Test break.

“Besides all the penalties, almost 90 percent of the scrums were resets. That slowed everything down, and we were put under a lot of pressure by the penalties. We worked hard on it, and I don’t want to say it was the roll of the dice – but credit to the Bulls. I don’t think we were that bad, I don’t think there are massive issues,” Malherbe said this week.

“I think it’s all down to the ref’s interpretations, how he sees it. We need to give him a better picture, and you have to be dominant to get rewarded. The Cheetahs have a good scrum, and I would just like to work well with Glen (Jackson, the referee at Newlands) and sort out issues with him in the game.”

Coach Robbie Fleck bemoaned the lack of finishing once again at Loftus, but knows that his team cannot afford another loss and then reflect on missed opportunities. With the Bulls facing a tough encounter against the Lions on Saturday, the Stormers could go back to the top of the Africa Conference 1 with a victory over the Cheetahs.

But Franco Smith’s team won’t just roll over, with their strong pack of forwards led by Springboks Lood de Jager and Oupa Mohoje sure to impose their physicality on a Stormers unit that came second in that regard to the Bulls.

“We had eight opportunities and converted one, the try at the end. When we retained possession, we put the Bulls under pressure. It was a frustrating game for us, but we are moving on from that. There’s confidence in the squad. The Cheetahs have to come to Newlands and beat us – we are ready and looking forward to it,” Fleck said.

“The Cheetahs are difficult to beat. They come with a lot of attitude defensively and their scrum can put you under pressure, when they do get it right. They’ve got a good maul and their set-piece is not too bad. They’re always never-say-die.”

Perhaps the man that could unlock the Stormers’ full attacking potential is new centre Daniel du Plessis – the son of former Springbok Michael and cousin of current flyhalf Jean-Luc. The former schoolboy star is a hard-running centre who likes to take on the defence in a robust manner, but also has time on the ball and is able to create space for the three-quarters on his outside.

Last week’s starting midfielders, Damian de Allende and Johnny Kotze, were both guilty of hogging possession and not looking to bring Cheslin Kolbe, Leolin Zas and Kobus van Wyk into play.

Along with halfbacks Nic Groom and Jean-Luc du Plessis, the Stormers attack needs to be varied between taking contact and exploiting width out wide, as well as putting in the odd chip kick or grubber into space.

The Cheetahs have some real firepower in their back-three as well in Sergeal Petersen, Raymond Rhule and Clayton Blommetjies, who all have the ability to pounce on any mistakes.

If the Stormers are serious about mounting a title challenge this season, let alone making the playoffs, these are the types of games they simply have to win.


Teams For Newlands

Stormers: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Daniel du Plessis, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe (captain), 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Oli Kebble.

Bench: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Alistair Vermaak, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Brandon Thomson, 23 Johnny Kotze.

Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (captain), 12 Michael van der Spuy, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Charles Marais.

Bench: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Luan de Bruin, 19 Armandt Koster, 20 Niell Jordaan, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Niel Marais, 23 Nico Lee.

Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand). Kickoff: 3pm.

Original source: Stormers must sort out scrums, lineouts