Cape Town – The more things change, the more they stay the
Western Province may have perked up their offensive play
immeasurably this year, which goes a long way to explaining why they currently
top the Absa Currie Cup table, but they still make an extraordinary number of
Industrious and well-organised defence was a key feature of
their strong (though trophy-less) showing in Super Rugby as the Stormers for several
recent seasons, and little has changed on that front if latest Currie Cup
statistics are a yardstick.
The blue-and-white-stripes may be increasingly lethal on the
counter-attack and from broken play, but the stats still firmly indicate that
they are not a consistently “front-foot” side.
Province players --- including their three first-choice
loose forwards thus far – occupy all of the top four berths in the
Vodacom-provided stats for most tackles made after three rounds of the domestic
A total of six WP players monopolise spots in the top 10 on
that front, with room only for a solitary representative of each of the Pumas,
Cheetahs, Sharks and EP Kings to make up the tally.
Head of the pack is in-form No 8 Nizaam Carr (70 tackles),
followed by team-mates Siya Kolisi (60), Jean Kleyn (59) and Michael Rhodes
The first non-Province player to get a look-in is Pumas
flank Corne Steenkamp (56) in fifth spot, followed by Tienie Burger (Cheetahs,
45), veteran Jacques Botes (Sharks, 44) and Shane Gates (EP Kings, 42).
But there is a final burst of WP representation in ninth and
10th spots with Stephan Coetzee (41) and Alistair Vermaak (40) also
showing up well for defensive donkey-work.
Promising, 21-year-old lock Kleyn managed the most personal
tackles of round three alone – when Province beat the Golden Lions 27-14 at
Newlands – with a phenomenal 28 if the figures are accurate.
While the WP numbers are clearly very impressive, the jury
will probably be out on whether such an exhausting tackle count is sustainable
until they prove it can be accompanied by trophy success at the end of the
It has often been suggested that the Stormers’ formerly,
unashamedly defensive approach in Super Rugby was behind the injury hoodoo that
all too often plagued them as they just came up short of scooping the top prize
two or three times.
WP coach Allister Coetzee noted after the Lions triumph last
weekend that his nationwide top tackler Carr is due a break -- though smart
money suggests he will press him into service against fierce old foes the Blue
Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday and then consider giving him time off when the
Kings travel to Cape Town a week later.
*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing