The Stormers learnt some valuable lessons from their defeat to the Crusaders earlier this season and forwards coach Matthew Proudfoot has been emphasising the value of patience in the build-up to the Newlands semifinal. Brits back in a Stormers jersey
The Cape side are expecting another attritional battle in front of a packed Newlands this weekend and Proudfoot believes that in order for his team to convert the chances that they create into points they will have to keep their heads and be as clinical as possible.
He told rugby365.com: "The lessons learnt from that loss to the Crusaders are obviously the turnovers we conceded on attack - we were a little bit impatient and once we created the line-breaks we tried to score in the very next phase.
"For example late in the game Nick Koster made a great break and instead of having the composure just to play it through the hands, we tried to score right there and then. When we do create opportunities we have got to be patient and make sure that the players are in the right position to get the ball and then look to score," he explained.
Much has been made of the way the Sharks disrupted the Crusaders at the breakdown last week with some impressive counter-rucking, although they did battle to take advantage of it in Nelson, and the Stormers have got their own plan for the Men from Canterbury this weekend.
The Stormers coaching staff have done a lot of work analysing the Crusaders' approach to the breakdown, and Proudfoot believes that the home team's performance in this area could prove decisive in what should be a tense affair on Saturday.
He commented: "For us the attacking breakdown is going to be an issue. The Crusaders operate two systems - in your half they attack the breakdown very heavily and in their half they tend to get numbers out wide. So I think the attacking breakdown is going to be vital for us this week to make sure that we are able to put multiple phases together with the ball that we get.
"I think that is the way that we can put them under pressure so we have spent a lot of time this week on our breakdown and making sure that our first two cleaners enter accurately and take away their ball-stealers.
"I don't think they will play too much rugby so I don't think that there will be a lot of opportunities for us to turn over ball. We will probably revert back to being a strong defensive side and look to put them under pressure that way," he added.
The Crusaders scrum has hardly taken a backwards step to any team this season and Proudfoot is as impressed as anyone with their unified efforts at scrum-time.
He said: "They have been very impressive, it is a big part of their game. I think that is what [scrum coach] Mike Cronn has brought to New Zealand rugby, he started this scrumming process a couple of years ago and the rest of the world is still trying to catch up with him.
"They are really well developed in it and it is going to be a challenge for us this weekend."
When questioned on what sets the Crusaders' scrum apart from others in the competition Proudfoot explained: "First of all the conditioning of their props, their props get into a very good body position and then they maximise the synergy of the hit by getting 16 feet all scrummaging at the same time so they are all working together.
"Those are all elements that we work on and I think they are pretty good at it at the moment," he added.
In what should be a very tight contest the tactical use of the bench could swing the game and the Stormers coaching staff are well aware that the days of replacements being there solely for injured players are long gone.
Proudfoot explained: "The Bulls have done it for the last couple of years where they come with five forwards and they just obliterate you with their physicality and you are just so tired in the last 10-15 minutes that you can't keep up with them anymore.
"I think if you don't have plans like that then you are going to be caught behind. We are definitely going to have a plan this week to put them under pressure by utilising our bench," he said.
However, this cannot be a formulaic, pre-planned scenario and coaches have to think on their feet and adapt their substitutions to the game situation.
Proudfoot continued: "The game has still got to be in the situation where that planning is applicable, so you have almost got to have a two or three-fold plan. You need players who can then adapt to that changing role.
"If you are suddenly behind and you are putting players on then you are looking for them to turn the game but if the game is very tight then you might look for them to shut the game out.
"We expect the game to be really tight for 60-70 minutes and both sides will probably look in the last 10-15 minutes to create a few opportunities to win the game," he revealed.
By Michael de Vries
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