Sharks will stick to attacking template
The Sharks have a few things to think about before they tackle the Stormers in their crucial Vodacom Super Rugby derby in Durban on Saturday, but it seems unlikely that they will move away from their running template against the best defensive team in the competition.
The Stormers have conceded not much more than one try a game for a couple of seasons now, with their well organised and physical defensive system suffocating many an opposing team out of the game.
Those teams that have beaten the Stormers in the past few seasons have tended to be those that have gone over them by employing a clever kicking game, with the Stormers gaining a reputation for relishing having opponents who run at them.
The Crusaders and the Reds beat them with a kicking game last year, the Brumbies did it in a tightly contested match at Newlands the season before, as did the Western Force in Perth that same year. And in the only match that the Stormers have lost this season, the one to the Crusaders in Christchurch, it was again the opposition kicking game, forcing the Stormers to play in the wrong area of the field, that did the Cape team in.
However Sharks coach John Plumtree, while acknowledging that the key was to mix it up against the Stormers and try a bit of everything, with territory being of paramount importance, said his men would still be placing a strong emphasis on attack in the must-win match.
“We have seen sides that have given us clues on how to play them, but we have to play to our strength, which is attacking rugby. We need to attack them with confidence as trying to grind out a win is just not our style,” said Plumtree.
“Having said that, playing in the right areas of the field is really important against the Stormers as trying to score long-range tries against them is made difficult by their excellent scramble defence. It’s just that when the attack is on, we intend to give it a full go.
“You have to be patient and play in the right areas, but what is even more important is that we make even more use of our attacking opportunities, by converting them into tries, than we did against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. That is because we are likely to be offered far fewer scoring opportunities against the Stormers. We just have to be utterly efficient and not waste scoring chances.”
What Plumtree definitely isn’t saying though is that carrying the ball is the way his team will beat the Stormers.
“You either go around their defence, through it or over it. We’ll have to do all of that in fact. There is no one way to skin this particular cat, you have to play with a lot of variation.”
Plumtree said his team will be wary of the Stormers’ kick-and-chase game, something which has worked against his side in the past. Stormers wings Bryan Habana and Gio Aplon are well primed to chase down the kicks and force the pressure which has seen them take winning early leads in most of their games this season.
“We are expecting it and everyone knows their job in trying to defend it, it’s just a case of us needing to be accurate,” said the coach.