Ken Borland - SuperSport
Cape Town - Former All Black eighthman Murray Mexted has advised the Stormers to ditch their emphasis on defence if they are to beat the Crusaders in Saturday's Super Rugby semi-final at Newlands.
"The Stormers are an excellent team, I rate them and I picked them as finalists halfway through the season. But their emphasis on defence influences their mindset too much and limits their attack. You can see it by the number of tries they've scored," Mexted told SuperRugby in a telephonic interview from Rustenburg, where he was based while coaching at the Investec International Rugby Academy.
The Stormers have scored 33 tries in 16 matches, the sixth-lowest, while the Crusaders, Reds and Waratahs all scored more than 45 tries. But last year's runners-up have only conceded 18 tries, which gives them the best defensive record in the competition.
The flamboyant commentator said, for him, the Crusaders had been the outstanding team in this year's competition.
"The Crusaders have been the best all-round team, they are strong across the board - up front and out wide. And they play fully to the new law interpretations, which encourage a team to keep possession and exploit whatever space is available," Mexted said.
The veteran of 34 tests said the Crusaders not only boasted top-class players through the team, but had developed a tremendous sense of unity due to the terrible earthquakes that have meant they have been unable to play a single game at their Christchurch base.
"It's been a serious challenge for them to get this far, because they've had to travel much further and for every game because of the tragedy that has brought their city to its knees.
"The team have scheduled helping out around the city into their weekly programme and that has helped their morale. It's about a lot more than rugby for them now and through adversity they've become stronger," Mexted said.
The 57-year-old admitted, however, that the Crusaders would need to be at their classy best in order to overcome a gruelling travel schedule.
"I expected them to win against the Sharks, but now they have to travel to Cape Town, which is a big ask. If they win there, then they'll probably have to travel back to Brisbane. It's a huge logistical and physical challenge, and then we also don't know how much of a toll injuries will take," Mexted said.