Vodacom Super 14

Waratahs pinpoint Jean

2009-03-31 08:31
Jean de Villiers (Gallo Images)
Sydney - The Waratahs believe that the midfield strength of the Stormers attack could become a weakness when they meet at the Sydney Football Stadium on Saturday night.

The Waratahs are planning to secure a semi-final berth by turning the SFS into a fortress during the next three weeks, when they play the Stormers, Bulls and the Force at home before heading to South Africa for the final three rounds.

The Stormers could easily be their most difficult opponents. While the Cape Town-based side has struggled this season, with only two wins from six games, they boast one of the Super 14's most experienced teams, including many Springboks.

The Stormers also boast one of the best defensive records in the tournament, with an average of just 16 points scored against them each game this year. The Waratahs are also averaging 16.

A key Stormers player is their skipper and Springbok centre Jean de Villiers, whose attacking pace and fast, in-your-face defence can intimidate opponents.

It was no surprise that de Villiers was named the 2008 South African player of the year, as well as receiving the player's player of the year award.

However, Waratahs winger Lote Tuqiri, who has often confronted de Villiers at both Super and Test level, believes that, while he is a menace, there could be frailties they can expose in the space around him.

"We know how we play, and we're going to be sticking to that," Tuqiri said at Waratahs training on Monday. "They obviously have guys like Jean de Villiers, who is one of the premier centres in the world.

"So he'll have to be watched. But, in saying that, there may be areas around him where we can target them in defence. He's that good a player that he can pick plays off in defence. Still, there might be some chances … we'll just have to wait and see."

Tuqiri agreed that the Stormers were one of the most bewildering opponents in the comp. "You never know what you are going to get when you play the Stormers," he said.

"It depends on how they're feeling. They are a bit like the Blues. They can come out and put 40 or 50 on you, but the last few years, our games have been quite close. We're similar to them in how we play in defence, and I think it will eventually revolve around which team actually turns up on the night. This year we have been quite consistent in that area, and hopefully that will help us."

Waratahs coach Chris Hickey said he was similarly concerned about the dangers of an unpredictable line-up.

"They have plenty of Springboks there and can be a difficult team to play against," Hickey said. "They are very good defensively and don't offer you very much at all. Sometimes teams who are less consistent can be even harder to prepare for.

"Still, the good thing for us is that the destiny is in our own hands over the next three weeks when we are at the SFS, before we have to back that up with three weeks in South Africa."

Hickey confirmed that Test halfback Luke Burgess will not run with the team until Thursday because of a cork injury, but was expected to play.

Although captain Phil Waugh continues to struggle with a calf problem, he is also set to play. Waugh was involved in yesterday's training session and ran relatively freely.

There are unlikely to be any major selection changes, although Timana Tahu may find himself in contention for the No.13 position.


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