The Stormers side announced to take on the Bulls this weekend at Loftus is a truly astonishing one.
Not because it has a Vodacom Cup look to it given the quite remarkable spate of injuries suffered by the Cape side, and not because they have had to retread Brok Harris as a loosehead, but because both Deon Fourie and Siya Kolisi find themselves on the bench.
The against a Bulls side sporting a loose trio that only Frans Ludeke (okay, and perhaps Heyneke Meyer) can love.
The “tall timber” that is Grant Hattingh, Jacques du Plessis, and Jono Ross simply does not work as a unit. Individually, all good players, but without a player who plays to the ball, the Bulls simply give up too much at the all-important breakdown.
And with Fourie leading the “turnovers won” stat this season (Fourie, Jack Lam, Matt Hodgson, and Michael Hooper have all made 13 pilfers), I would have thought this an ideal area for Stormers coach Allister Coetzee to target.
One does not really need the Vodacom Rugby Stats App to tell you how influential Heinrich Brussow has been in the three games he has played this year, but given that the national coach likes to use the amount of penalties he gives away as a reason not to select him, it is worth noting that his seven penalties ranks him 48th in Super Rugby, while his nine turnovers ranks him 15th on that particular list. The Cheetahs are a completely different, and much better, side with Brussow inked in at No 6.
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The role of the fetcher, and whether teams really need one in today’s brutal game that sees breakdowns often won by huge men putting in shoulder charges designed as clean outs so as to claim the ball via counter ruck, remains a hotly debated one.
To my mind, the stats of players like Brussow, McCaw and Hooper seal the deal, but it also means you get to contest the breakdown with far fewer players then when employing the clean out. And this, in turn, means that you get to work with either the recycled or golden turnover ball with more players out wide, and thus have a better chance of creating the overlap.
Even Jake White, who only used fetchers to bring him beer from the fridge in 2007, is a believer these days. To the extent that when the Sharks lost Marcell Coetzee to injury this week, Jake called “like for like” player Jacques Botes into the squad.
The decision obviously also depends on what players you have at your disposal, but this is one area where the Stormers are certainly not short.
Nizaam Carr is having a stellar season, even upstaging Bok incumbent Duane Vermeulen on occasion, and one can fully understand why Coetzee would want to play him. But his game is best suited to 8th man, perhaps 7. But wanting to keep Vermeulen at 8, and needing Schalk Burger to captain the side from 7, Coetzee has opted to keep the player rather than keep the balance.
These are the tough calls that a coach needs to make. I would have gone for the fetcher, especially against this Bulls side who are struggling at the breakdown. And being so short on experience, it seems to me that having a player like Fourie, who has captained the side on many an occasion, in the mix, would make even more sense.
Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who now heads up Tankman Media, and sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row Grunt
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