Stormers: Lineout worry in Bloem
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – If the Stormers were in any danger of complacency for their Super Rugby clash with the out-of-contention Cheetahs at Free State Stadium on Saturday (17:05), a glance at the contrasting lineout statistics of the two teams should snap them out of it.
Whilst the Cape side, back as leaders of the SA conference, will be fairly strong favourites on paper to win against the bottom-placed outfit, they will know that this key set-piece needs substantial improvement.
It let them down again, for the most part, in their nail-biting 15-13 triumph over the Bulls at Newlands, and would have contributed to their tumble to joint second-worst lineout team statistically in the competition with the Blues.
If the figures are to be believed, both franchises have a success percentage right now of 81.3: only the Melbourne Rebels are worse (75.7 percent).
It is a surprising state of affairs when you consider that the Stormers have such known, gifted individual jumpers as Eben Etzebeth (albeit set for a Bok-enforced rest this weekend), Ruan Botha and Duane Vermeulen.
But synergy between catcher and thrower is a big part of the business and the Capetonians have sometimes seemed to get the timing all wrong – whether the hooker hurling the ball in has been Scarra Ntubeni or Bongi Mbonambi.
There is talk of fit-again, seasoned Argentinean international Manny Carizza returning to the second row for the Bloemfontein game to help stabilise the lineout in the No 5 jersey.
Not helping the Stormers’ prospects for this weekend, perhaps, is that the Cheetahs, by contrast, have been dining out rather well lineout-wise despite their lowly overall log position of 12th.
They are the best-performing SA side statistically, with a success percentage of 89.0 in the phase, placing them third overall behind only the Brumbies (91.1) and Reds (90.2).
Individually, the Cheetahs boast two top-tenners for lineout grabs, in the form of skipper Francois Uys (37, and second spot to the Brumbies’ Sam Carter on 43), and lanky Carl Wegner (28), who sneaks into 10th berth itself.
It is a satisfying state of affairs for the Free Staters, considering the long-term injury to Springbok lock Lood de Jager, who would normally be one of their bankers.
In terms of scrummaging, though, it is a different story, with the Stormers among the top four overall for success rate there (91.0 percent) and coming off a crucially dominant showing against the Bulls.
Here the Cheetahs’ plight more accurately fits in with their lowly log position, as their scrum is the worst of the 15 in Super Rugby with a success rate of 80 percent.
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