CAPE TOWN – Test-match intensity. That’s what Stormers assistant coach Russell Winter is expecting the Bulls pack to bring when they meet in their Super Rugby-opener at Loftus on Saturday.
If you reflect on the pre-season results the Stormers have been able to rack up – especially in their superhero-themed run-out against their rivals at Cape Town Stadium – the forecast for their impeding challenge should be a warm one. Against the Bulls 10 days ago, they scored 33 points to 28 and produced an overall promising display at a packed venue.
While their lineout did struggle at times and felt the pressure from the Bulls’ Lood de Jager, the hosts did enough in other areas to deflect focus from their (especially early-on) set-piece struggles.
The grit they showed at the breakdown in their first friendly in Constantia was present again, and in the rest of the up-front department, there were satisfying displays from the likes of Juarno Augustus, who produced a promising show at No 8, while the Sunday-afternoon showdown was again testament of the depth in the Western Cape. Focusing on the opener, Winter said they have taken a few lessons from their previous Super meetings with the Pretoria side.
“When you play the Bulls pack at Loftus they play at Test-match intensity,” Winter said at the team’s training base in Bellville yesterday.
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“We’ve learnt from the past. We know we’re going to have to really match them this year if we wanna go over there and get a win.
“(Sikhumbuzo) Notshe has been trying really hard and he’s been doing well, Trokkie’s (Augustus) coming through and he’s going to get a chance this year. All our loose forwards have been amazing, I’m pleased with the depth we have. Last year we lacked a bit of depth and some of the players who came in were a bit young, but now they have a bit of Super Rugby experience and I think it’s going to do them well.
“I really do think this weekend is going to be different from what we saw during the superhero Sunday.”
The Stormers’ disappointing record last season (they ended 11th overall and fourth in the South African conference) didn’t include any wins away from Newlands, and while head coach Robbie Fleck emphasised the importance of celebrating away from your home crowd following their 87-5 demolition of Boland, Winter explained that they won’t focus on the away bogey too much ahead of the new season.
“Last year we didn’t win away from home. We don’t want to make too much of an issue out of it, but we’re definitely going to go out there and try our best, then we’ll see what happens,” he said.
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