Stormers hold thumbs for Etzebeth as Canes clash looms

CAPE TOWN – The Stormers may be on a three-match winning streak, but they are fully aware that they will face their first true test this weekend when they face the Hurricanes on Saturday.

The 2017 champions are renowned for their free-flowing attacking game, with star flyhalf Beauden Barrett pulling the strings along with his equally-talented brother Jordie.

After suffering a 40-3 mauling in their opening game, the Stormers have tightened up drastically in their last few matches. They held the Jaguares to just one try last Friday and were also defensively sound against the Sharks in Durban.

“The defence has been going well, but there’s still room for improvement,” Stormers defensive coach Norman Laker said. “I’m quite happy with how we went against the Jaguares and against the Sharks.

“For us, it’s important to improve in every single game defensively and get that pride back as a team. We got our first away win in quite a while, against the Sharks, and only conceded one try in that game. It’s something we would like to build on, on this tour.

“Saturday will definitely be a big challenge for us as a team to see where we are defensively. I do think this will be our toughest opposition so far. Beauden (Barrett) is a world-class flyhalf and has his brother Jordie playing in the backline too.

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“They create a lot of opportunities for those playing around them, but we are not going to focus on an individual, because there are other players who can create opportunities.

“We will just be focusing on ourselves and how we can improve as a team,” Laker said.

B19B2RW5231 - Stormers hold thumbs for Etzebeth as Canes clash looms
Eben Etzebeth has passed his stage one fitness test ahead of the weekend’s match against the Hurricanes. Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Despite missing a training session this week due to the travelling schedule, Laker feels the Stormers are in a good space.

“It was a long travel but the guys are okay considering. We had lots of stuff to do today (Tuesday) as obviously we missed the usual Monday session because we were in the air.

“I thought the guys did well considering the three days of travel,” said Laker.

The major positive for the Stormers since their arrival in New Zealand is the fitness of star lock Eben Etzebeth. The second-rower was expected to miss the tour opener after leaving the field at halftime against the Jaguares due to a head knock, but he has now passed a concussion test.

“Everybody is fit so far,” Laker said. “Eben obviously had the concussion on Friday, but he has passed his stage one fitness test. Everyone is looking fit and I am confident that everyone can play on Saturday.

“Because Eben played on Friday, there was an extra day of recovery for him. He did a little bit of training today. We are confident that he might be ready.”


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