Stormers brace for the Hurricanes

2008-04-16 00:00

Cape Town — The Stormers are not just preparing to play against the Hurricanes at Newlands on Saturday, they are also bracing themselves for the first Cape storm of the winter.

They say the Easter weekend heralds the start of the rainy season in the Cape, and Easter was about three or four weeks early this year, so that the first rains will arrive this weekend is just about right.

At least that’s what the weather forecasters are predicting, with the chances of rain set at 80% with 40 km/h winds.

That shouldn’t sit too well with the Stormers. Although the Hurricanes also rely heavily on pace and handling, the Stormers (and Western Province) have turned in a woeful record in wet weather in the past couple of years. This is something that their coach Rassie Erasmus should be well aware of after his former team the Cheetahs beat WP in a rainstorm during a Currie Cup semi-final in Cape Town a couple of years ago.

And as Stormers skipper Jean de Villiers was quick to point out, the Hurricanes have had a couple of wet games this season, like when they drew with the Sharks in Wellington less than two weeks ago.

“The Hurricanes do like to run the ball, but they are pretty good at playing conservatively when they have to,” said De Villiers. “They have played a couple of games in the wet weather already this season, whereas we have played mostly dry games. The closest we came to a wet weather game was when we played against the Sharks in the Durban humidity, which made the ball slippery.”

So the Stormers may find themselves having to adapt their normally expansive approach. It will be an interesting test as they appear to have more ways to play and win under the coaching of Erasmus and his current management team than was the case under some previous regimes.

It will, however, demand that the Stormers’ tight five be on top of their game, which means it is a good thing for them that two key tight forwards, Andries Bekker and JD Moller, have been declared fit to play. That meant that Erasmus was yesterday able to name the same starting team that played the Cheetahs last weekend. “It is good to have continuity in selection and to feel that the combinations are settled.”

It will be interesting to see, however, whether closer to the game and if the wet weather becomes a reality, Erasmus will be tempted to bring in Tony Brown at flyhalf, with Peter Grant moving to centre.

Brown has played some good wet- weather games at all levels, including a winning Test match for the All Blacks against the Springboks here at Newlands in 2001.

It might not happen from the start, but it is an option worth pondering considering the importance of this game.

Of course, much could depend on the extent of any rainfall. The Stormers are going to have to place a high premium on defending the flyhalf and midfield channels against the big Hurricanes midfield and loose forwards, and Grant, de Villiers and Gcobani Bobo have excelled as a defensive unit this season.

If the heavens really open up, however, and it is going to be a kicking game, this priority could change.

Stormers team

Conrad Jantjes, Tonderai Chavhanga, Gcobani Bobo, Jean de Villiers (captain), Sireli Naqelevuki, Peter Grant, Ricky Januarie, Luke Watson, Francois Louw, Schalk Burger, Andries Bekker, Adriaan Fondse, Brian Mujati, Schalk Brits, JD Moller.

Reserves: Tiaan Liebenberg, Brok Harris, Ross Skeate, Robbie Diack, Bolla Conradie, Tony Brown, Gio Aplon.

— News24.

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