Super Rugby

Stormers ready for Sharks' aerial threat

The Stormers are priming themselves to deal with the kick and chase aspect of the Sharks' strategy and are confident they won't be caught out and exposed by it in Saturday's Kings Park derby like the Jaguares were at the same venue last weekend.

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According to, the Sharks won all the early contestable kicks back and with that ball they wreaked havoc against a Jaguares team that looked stunned.

In no time at all the Sharks had propelled themselves into a good lead - 12-0 after 10 minutes - and their dominance of the contestable kicks played a big part in a comfortable 22-12 half-time lead before eventually winning 33-19.

The Blues managed to isolate Stormers fullback Dillyn Leyds a few too many times for comfort when they won comfortably at Newlands the last time the Cape side took the field and the vision of the Sharks' kicking game exposing Stormers vulnerabilities at the back might have kept coach John Dobson awake at night during his team's break for their bye.

However, as Stormers defence coach Norman Laker pointed out at the start of the build-up week to Saturday's big game, the Stormers back three has generally been good in the aerial battles this season.

"The Sharks' kick and chase was excellent against the Jaguares and we saw how many contestables they won back, they are a real threat in that regard, but we have been good this season when contesting the ball in the air through wings Seabelo (Senatla) and Sergeal (Petersen), and also Dillyn," said Laker.

"I wouldn't say that is a weakness of ours and we also contest hard in the air to win back turn-overs. They are very good at it tough, we saw that against the Jaguares. The first 12 points came from contestables that the Sharks got back. But getting the ball back out of the air is also a strength of ours so it should be a good battle.

"Dillyn did get isolated by the Blues but that was largely because they managed to get through the gainline with their carries. It isn't just Dillyn, that can happen to any fullback in that situation."

Senatla concurred with Laker that there was no reason the Stormers should feel they need to fear what the Sharks can do with their kick attack.

"I think we have been doing quite well, and on a personal level I think I let myself down in one game otherwise I am happy with my game," said Senatla.

"We've done well in the air, and we know we will have to be at the top of our game in that area on Saturday. My experience of Durban at this time of the year is that it is often humid and most times the ball is slippery, which is probably why they kick so much. Hopefully there will be a bit of wind to negate the humidity, but I also know from experience that when the wind blows at Kings Park there is a swirl that can make fielding kicks difficult.

"I wouldn't say this game is personal for me. I don't approach my rugby like that, I take one game at a time and don't focus too much on who I am playing against. But obviously I watched the World Cup and saw how Mapimps (Makazole Mapimpi) and Lukhanyo (Am) did there and what has been impressive is the way they have carried that form into Super Rugby. I like playing against the best and they are the best."

Both Senatla and Laker were in agreement that the Stormers' failure in the Blues game was a mental one more than physical.

"There were a whole lot of small things, like it being a hot day and us wearing black jerseys which attract heat in that game, but we just didn't pitch. You could see it in the way we defended even," said the Blitzboks star.

"It was a mental thing. Our captain Steven Kitshoff said it afterwards. We didn't look sharp even in our warm-up before the game and we dropped a couple of balls."

They were then hit at the start of the match with a ferocious onslaught from a Blues team that, while not up to that point making a habit of winning, did boast good stats when it came to some key elements of attacking rugby.

"It is tough to say exactly what went wrong in that game but I must say it was a very good Blues team we ran into," said Laker.

"Even before they played us they were the team boasting the most dominant carries and also the quickest ruck ball in the competition. We knew what was coming and we committed ourselves to stopping them but it just didn’t happen. They showed how good they are again this past weekend when they beat the Hurricanes.

"But we definitely didn’t defend as well as we should have. There were quite a few things to fix after that game and we feel we have come up with a few plans for the Sharks. Maybe it was just one game too many in five against the Blues, or maybe it was just that they surprised us with how good their carries were and before we knew it we were 14-0 down, a situation we had not been in prior to that this season."

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