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Stormers looking to 'evolve'

Fri, 22 Mar 2013 07:28
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Stormers captain Jean de Villiers scoffed at suggestions that his team is still a dour, defensive-orientated outfit.

Stormers captain Jean de Villiers scoffed at suggestions that his team is still a dour, defensive-orientated outfit.

The veteran Springbok midfielder, addressing a media gathering at Newlands ahead of their Round Six Super Rugby showdown with the table-topping Brumbies, said they are working hard on improving their attacking game.

"If you suggest we are concentrating mainly on defence, you must be referring to last year - given that in our last game [a 36-34 win over the Chiefs a fortnight ago] we scored three tries and conceded four," De Villiers hit back at a reporter who asked if they would look to be more conservative against the hard-running Brumbies on Saturday.

The Stormers tries for and against tally for 2013 stands at five-all, but their 2012 defensive count was far more impressive - when they managed to score just 28 tries in 17 games, but finished top of the table by conceding just 21 touchdowns.

That was the best defensive record of all teams by some distance, with the Chiefs' 30 tries conceded in all league matches the next best.

De Villiers made it clear the Stormers are working hard on improving their attacking game and becoming a more rounded outfit.

"We have said often this year we want to evolve with our gameplan - both on attack and defence," the Stormers skipper said.

"In the last game [against the Chiefs] we dropped our standards a bit in terms of defence, but we have showed great improvement on attack.

"Hopefully we can bring that together and get that balance we are searching for.

"We will be tested in both those aspect by the Brumbies this weekend."

Stormers coach Allister Coetzee admitted his team prides themselves on their defence, but also felt that too much are being made of his supposed one-dimensional approach.

"The game has not changed at all," Coetzee told the media briefing, adding: "It is always about the battle at the gainline.

"If you allow any team to get momentum, you will be under pressure.

"Obviously our game is build on strong defence and we know how important it is not to give free yards away [against the Brumbies].

"We pride ourselves on our defence - it is something we have been working on for years and we've been one of the best defensive teams in the past.

"We definitely will be challenged, the Brumbies have a tradition of keeping the ball in hand and building phases through continuity.

"However, the area one should not underestimate is the breakdown. That gives them the platform to keep building phases, because the recycle well.

"We have to make sure we get stuck into them and get some positive hits."

Coetzee pointed out that the Brumbies' game is also based on solid defence.

"They have scores 14 tries and conceded just two, which says a lot about their defence. They come off the line very hard and put sides under pressure and that is what happened to the Sharks [last week]. They [the Sharks] made a lot of mistakes in their own half and gave the Brumbies extra ball.

"Continuity is key to their game - if you give the ball away you don't see it again. You have to make sure you are accurate when you have the ball, keep your ball and just play in the right areas. They [the Brumbies] don't have to kick if they are in the opposition's half.

"One has to make sure you play and put them under pressure on the right side of the field."

Coetzee said his team will have to "pitch up" with the right attitude and make sure they are clinical on the day.

"It is all about possession and how you protect it, that is crucial to me," the Stormers mentor said.

Then, of course, there is the Jake White.

De Villiers said the 2007 World Cup-winning Bok coach brought a hard edge to the Canberra-based team.

"They are a very physical side and play clever rugby," the Stormers captain said, adding: "What Jake has always done well is to surround himself with good people, good coaches to help him.

"He has done the same in this case - guys like [George] Gregan and [Stephen] Larkham, as well as Laurie Fisher, who I worked with at Munster.

"Those are guys who have been involved with the Brumbies team for a very long time and were involved in the glory years of the Brumbies. They know what to do and how to get the best out of their players.

"With Jake there, he's won a World Cup and that speaks for itself."

By Jan de Koning

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