CAPE TOWN – For those making the trip to Newlands tonight hoping to see a free-flowing Super Rugby contest between the Stormers and Jaguares could be left a little disappointed.
For all the desire to return to the grandeur days of creating space for their outside backs and launching exhilarating attacks from deep within inside their own half, the Stormers are now a pragmatic side that will look to grind out victories through forward domination.
It is by no means a criticism either for their undisputed strength lies with their power-packed set of strongmen with the likes of man-mountains Eben Etzebeth and Pieter Steph du Toit along, with Springbok captain Siya Kolisi ready to drive the opposition into submission.
It would be foolish to divert from a game plan that minimises their influence, especially since the Stormers are working from a base that saw them finish 11th on the overall Super Rugby standings and second last in the South African conference last year.
Already they have beaten the Lions for the first time in four seasons and claimed their first away points in over a year with the victory over the Sharks in Durban a fortnight ago through tactics that focuses on the clinical execution of the basics.
Whether it will be enough to compete with the likes of New Zealand franchises such as the Hurricanes and Blues plus the Reds and Rebels from Australia when they head Down Under on Sunday is another task altogether, but right now the Stormers are ready to play “Test match rugby” to claim a third successive win of the season tonight.
“Obviously every team wants to be expansive, but we have to find the balance. It is pointless scoring 10 tries and not getting the victory. We are still trying to get our attack right. Once we get that right, things will start falling into place. The main thing for us is to win the game. If it’s a scrappy win, we will take it,” Stormers and Bok centre Damian de Allende said.
It seems like a situation where the suit is being tailored to the cloth, for the Jaguares will equally look to dominate the set-pieces. The Argentine team have rung the changes after last week’s defeat in Johannesburg, particularly beefing up their pack with the inclusion of former captain Pablo Matera and robust lock Tomas Lavanini.
The latter is an imposing 2.01m tall second rower who tips the scales at 130kg and is one of the game’s renowned hard men with a social media video dedicated to him headlined “Rugby’s biggest thugs”.
Lavanini’s reacquaintance with Etzebeth, in particular, could be a case of who is left standing after the pair infamously went toe-to-toe in the 2015 Rugby World Cup bronze medal match in London.
“They did rest players last week but that means they will bring it this week against us. They will also be smarting after the Lions defeat. They struggled in the scrums in particular so our forwards will be expecting a particularly tough battle from the guys who will come back into their pack and be in a determined mood to put the record straight,” said De Allende.
“We have spoken about it. We are prepared for it. We see it like playing a Test match.”