JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

All eyes on the Stormers but underdog status gives Waratahs a chance


Paul Cully

Outstanding ... Stormers loose-head prop Steven Kitshoff.

Outstanding ... Stormers loose-head prop Steven Kitshoff. Photo: Getty Images

What the Waratahs wouldn't give for a little of the pressure the Stormers are experiencing. The Cape Town side is perched loftily in the table, has the best defensive record in the competition and entertains a home final as a realistic ambition.

NSW are struggling with a deficit of confidence, unco-operative hamstrings bother two of their heavyweights and a lack of flattery is emerging from some commentators. For good measure, a former coaching target has reappeared on the market at a bad time for the incumbent.

Yet the Stormers have had to field inquiries this week about their lack of attacking menace following a rugged but uninspiring win at home over the Cheetahs. The Stormers average of 1.7 tries a game is the second-lowest in the competition. They are yet to grab a four-try bonus point and the influence of backs coach Robbie Fleck has been questioned. It is not just Sydney that is hard to please.

However, there was one incident in the Stormers-Cheetahs match that summed up the arduous task in front of Michael Foley's men.

In the 54th minute, from an attacking lineout, the Cheetahs' Heinrich Brussow swept down the blindside and popped up a delayed pass to halfback Piet van Zyl.

Springboks winger Bryan Habana, watching from the left wing, moved forward and rearranged van Zyl's ribcage with a huge, driving tackle. When the Stormers commit in defence, they do so with some intent. It has been their season's foundation.

Pugnacious types such as front-rower Brok Harris and hooker Tiaan Liebenberg might not be waiting for national call-ups, but their aggressive approach sets the tone for Andries Bekker, Eben Etzebeth and Rynhardt Elstadt, while emerging star Siya Kolisi has caught the eye with his athletic carries and workrate from openside. It has, in part, compensated for the heavy blows of losing Schalk Burger and Duane Vermeulen. Watch out, too, for the heavy charges of outstanding young loose-head prop Steven Kitshoff. The next generation of South African forwards is in good shape.

Yet, if individuals are to be singled out in terms of influence, fullback Joe Pietersen merits the most attention. Comparisons with Waratahs No.15 Bernard Foley are hard to avoid. Both are relatively lightweight, about 85 kilos, but they have something else in common. The man who deals most impressively with two key roles - taking the high ball and sparking a counter-attack - will have a greater influence on the result than the giants around them.

Pietersen's fleet-footedness produced the best try of the season so far, a brilliant effort against the Highlanders in week seven, but it also serves a less obvious purpose. Sweeping at the rear of the aggressive wall of the Stormers' defenders, Pietersen's pace and positional awareness allows him to patrol the acreage they leave in behind them. Imprecise kicks are punished by the fullback, who is brave under the bomb and kicks well. Still, there is space to be found.

For the visitors, attention will focus on whether Foley the player can benefit from the second outing of a 10-12-13 combination that is preferable to the alternatives tried earlier. Flashes of promise were seen in parts of the Brumbies and Bulls games without any hint that the complete back-line package was imminent, but progress of sorts was being made.

At least Berrick Barnes is moving forward when he picks his options but service to the five-eighth remains a problem, in the shape of passes provided by Brendan McKibbin and the quality of ball dished up to the halfback. The Stormers are not a turnover team - they have the lowest ruck and maul steals in the competition - but they can slow the ball down by committing numbers to the tackle and shoving the ball carrier into reverse.

With the characteristics of both sides, it is easy to predict a dull encounter decided by multiples of three. The kick-off is in the evening and the forecast is for rain. But this competition has proven adept at making a fool of the clairvoyant.

Do not underestimate the Stormers' need to build other layers on their game as they ponder whether their style is sufficient to deliver a title. For the Waratahs, the encouragement to attack comes from another source: there is a lesser burden on the side that is expected to lose. The script on this one is more complex than it seems.

Twitter - @whiskeycully

9 comments so far

  • Agree @whiskeycully.
    If the Tahs are expected to lose then they are a realistic threat in this game but I really can't see them downing the Stormers. My only hope is they show some pride in their jersey and are competitive.
    As we've seen, just in recent weeks, anything is possible.
    Go the Tahs but tip the Stormers !

    inner west sydney
    Date and time
    May 18, 2012, 9:13AM
    • This match - which the Stormers will win by 13 and over, possibly concussing Berreck Barnes in the process - will finally put a bullet into the Tah's ridiculous, mis placed self belief that they are finals contenders.

      Date and time
      May 18, 2012, 12:34PM
      • @ theDiff
        How's the mighty Blues of Auuckland doin' dude ?

        inner west sydney
        Date and time
        May 18, 2012, 3:12PM
      • @ theDiff
        Those precious Blues - it's a knock-out you wombat!

        inner west sydney
        Date and time
        May 19, 2012, 7:49PM
    • Great article again Paul. Would be great to see 10-12-13 click if nothing else in a forgettable season. Foley has been a real disappointment in his first season as head coach. Not as big a disappointment as the idiot above me 'TheDiff', who seems to wish Berrick Barnes to suffer concussion. Absolute goose.

      Hong Kong
      Date and time
      May 18, 2012, 3:02PM
      • With you 100% Diff , sadly it's going to take the end-of-the-season hard fact discussion when 'Tah's players are conspicuous by their absence in the Wallabies squad ; that the penny 'may' drop for these rocket scientists- and the sad fact is that NSW has no other alternative to "support " then these professional losers .

        Matthew Skellett
        Date and time
        May 18, 2012, 3:56PM
        • Matthew Skellet sounds like a professional Tah Hater. You wouldn't be a Kiwi like theDiff, would you?

          Old Hickory
          Date and time
          May 19, 2012, 1:55PM
          • @ Old Hickory
            Well done ! They're NOT from around here but they live here and talk shyt here. What a wonderful place we all have here !

            inner west sydney
            Date and time
            May 19, 2012, 7:43PM
        • The Tahs are and always will be my team. When I see them acting like the class dunce on the footy field I struggle with whom to blame for how crap we perform as a team. Is it selections, the players, the coach, tactics, decision making or a cocktail mix of all? Here's hoping Foley finally gets that 2012 has said Bye Bye to our chances and starts to plan 2013 now by noting what the best teams are up to. For instance that extra preseason of the Brumbies has done them no harm.

          Blinky Bill
          Bellingen NSW
          Date and time
          May 19, 2012, 10:33PM

          Make a comment

          You are logged in as [Logout]

          All information entered below may be published.

          Error: Please enter your screen name.

          Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

          Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

          Error: Please enter your comment.

          Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

          Post to

          You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

          Thank you

          Your comment has been submitted for approval.

          Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

          Related Coverage

          Rugby Internationals 2014

          Round 1
          Sat, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
          SAM 18 vs TGA 18 Report Stats
          FJI 25 vs ITA 14 Report Stats
          NZL 20 vs ENG 15 Report Stats
          AUS 50 vs FRA 23 Report Stats
          Sun, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
          RSA 47 vs WXV 13 Report Stats
          ARG 17 vs IRE 29 Report Stats
          USA 6 vs SCO 24 Report Stats
          CAN 25 vs JPN 34 Report Stats
          View All Fixtures
          Round 2
          Sat, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
          SAM 15 vs ITA Report Stats
          FJI 45 vs TGA 17 Report Stats
          NZL 28 vs ENG 27 Report Stats
          AUS 6 vs FRA Report Stats
          Sun, 15 JunTimes shown AEST
          RSA 38 vs WAL 16 Report Stats
          CAN 17 vs SCO 19 Report Stats
          ARG 17 vs IRE 23 Report Stats
          USA 29 vs JPN 37 Report Stats
          View All Fixtures
          Round 3
          Sat, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
          ARG 19 vs SCO 21 Report Stats
          FJI 13 vs SAM 18 Report Stats
          JPN 26 vs ITA 23 Report Stats
          AUS 39 vs FRA 13 Stats
          NZL 36 vs ENG 13 Report Stats
          Sun, 22 JunTimes shown AEST
          RSA 31 vs WAL 30 Report Stats
          USA 38 vs CAN 35 Report Stats
          View All Fixtures
          Round 4
          Sun, 29 JunTimes shown AEST
          RSA 55 vs SCO 6 Report Stats
          View All Fixtures
          Round 5
          Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
          BAR 36 vs AUS 40 Report Stats
          USA 6 vs NZL 74 Report Stats
          View All Fixtures
          Round 6
          Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
          ITA 24 vs SAM 13 Report Stats
          ENG 21 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
          WAL 28 vs AUS 33 Report Stats
          FRA 40 vs FJI 14 Report Stats
          IRE 29 vs RSA 15 Report Stats
          SCO 41 vs ARG 31 Report Stats
          View All Fixtures
          Round 7
          Sun, 16 NovTimes shown AEDT
          ITA 18 vs ARG 20 Report Stats
          ENG 28 vs RSA 31 Report Stats
          WAL 17 vs FJI 13 Report Stats
          SCO 16 vs NZL 24 Report Stats
          FRA 29 vs AUS 26 Report Stats
          Mon, 17 NovTimes shown AEDT
          IRE 49 vs GEO 7 Report Stats
          View All Fixtures
          Round 8
          Sun, 23 NovTimes shown AEDT
          ITA 6 vs RSA 22 Report Stats
          SCO 37 vs TGA 12 Report Stats
          IRE 26 vs AUS 23 Report Stats
          WAL 16 vs NZL 34 Report Stats
          ENG 28 vs SAM 9 Report Stats
          FRA 13 vs ARG 18 Report Stats
          View All Fixtures
          Round 9
          Sun, 30 NovTimes shown AEDT
          ENG 26 vs AUS 17 Report Stats
          WAL 12 vs RSA 6 Report Stats
          View All Fixtures
          Featured advertisers