Chiefs' forwards can match Stormers
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Chiefs co-captain Aaron Cruden has praised his forward pack ahead of his team's Super Rugby play-off against the Stormers on Saturday.
A 25-strong Chiefs squad landed in Cape Town for the much anticipated Super Rugby play-off. A match which many see as a battle between Chiefs' backline against Stormers' forwards.
New Zealand teams are renowned for playing a high tempo game and traditionally South African sides like to play at the right end of the field with the forwards.
However, Cruden has stated that their forwards indeed possess enough clout to match the likes of Stormers tighthead props Frans Malherbe and Vincent Koch.
"I think our forward pack have been huge for us this year - underrated at times. There have been a few times where the forwards had to step up and they have done an amazing job.
"Our forward pack will have to do the craft upfront before you can move the ball out wide to the backline," Cruden stated.
The Chiefs have been devastating this season. Their ability to launch counterattacks deep inside their own 22 has produced some amazing results for the side.
However, given the nature of play-offs, the game tends to be more conservative.
"It's finals [rugby], if you win you go through, lose you go home. It is about making the most of your opportunities, while trying to limit the opposition's.
"It does influence your game - you tend to take less risks. In saying that you do not want to curb the boys. The positive mindset for us has really worked thus far. However, last week against the Highlanders we forced passes and made mistakes against quality opposition and that will cost you dearly," he added.
While Cruden praised the forwards, coach Dave Rennie emphasised the role of his back three.
Rennie said: "Our counterattacks have been good. We expect the Stormers to kick at us and we have to use it to launch [our counterattacks].
"We have some pretty good kicking in the back three. James Lowe has a massive kicking boot, Damian McKenzie kicks really well with both feet and we got Cruden. Even Stephen Donald is another option. We want to play but we need a smart kicking game."
Rennie added: "[The Stormers] are an impressive unit. They got a big pack and great athletes and they carry hard, so we kind of know what to expect. They play a good brand of rugby.
"[Pieter-Steph du Toit and Eben Etzebeth] are mighty strong and we are aware of how they are able to choke teams in terms of the line-out,”
Meanwhile, SANZAAR has ruled Liam Messam ineligible for the Super Rugby play-offs. While Seta Tamanivalu is unavailable for the Stormers match after sustaining an MCL injury in their Round 17 clash against the Highlanders.
"Losing Tamanivalu and Messam is a pity. However we have enough depth in the squad. It's common that teams will be down players this time of the year," Rennie stated.
By Leezil Hendricks