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Rugby | Vodacom Super Rugby

Sharks taking cue from Kiwis

The Cell C Sharks are taking a lead from what the New Zealand teams did to the DHL Stormers during their recent overseas tour in their preparations for Saturday’s big Vodacom Super Rugby derby between the coastal franchises at Kings Park.

Stormers coach Robbie Fleck will be the first to admit that his men struggled with the line-speed of the defensive systems of the Crusaders, Highlanders and the Hurricanes. In the Crusaders game the Stormers actually had quite a bit of ball to play with early in the game but you could see even at that stage that they were uncomfortable with the way the Crusaders closed up their space and were constantly in their face.

It was a similar story against the Highlanders in Dunedin a week later, and though the Sharks might want to note that the Stormers appeared to becoming a bit more comfortable with it in their last game against the Hurricanes – though they also tightened up considerably for that match – they did struggle a little at the Westpac Stadium too.

The Blues, who the Stormers beat at Newlands last weekend, do not employ line-speed on defence like the other Kiwi sides do, but it was noticeable that they had also taken a cue from what had worked for the Crusaders, Highlanders and Hurricanes. They were far more aggressive on defence than they normally are, and until they became more confident later in the game, the Stormers did struggle to settle and the attacking assurance they had displayed before their tour was absent.

The Stormers coaching staff said after the 30-22 win over the Blues that the Sharks would pose different challenges, but if their defence coach Ryan Strudwick is to be believed, perhaps not.

“If the Stormers forwards can initiate momentum their backs can be very dangerous, so we are focusing on stopping some of their key players to prevent them from getting their attacking game going,” said Strudwick to the Durban media.

“That is exactly what the New Zealand teams did to them. They did not allow the Stormers to get momentum and they put them under pressure with their line-speed. Our challenge this week is to do the same as the Kiwi teams did.”

Strudwick made it clear that the Sharks have a lot of respect for what the Stormers are capable of.

“Everybody knows that they have dangerous players throughout their team, especially a back three that is capable of counter attack. It is also well known that they have formidable ball carriers.”

He said though that the Sharks effort at Kings Park would not just be geared towards preventing the Stormers from playing their game. The Sharks will be wanting to impose their game too.

“We scored six tries against the Sunwolves and the guys very much enjoyed getting over the tryline, something we have been trying to do all season. It is not just the Stormers who want to play attacking rugby. These days everyone wants to attack. We all want to have ball in hand, and the more you do that, the less defending you have to do and the less opportunities for the opposition to attack.”


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