It’s sim­ple: Jean-Luc is piv­otal

Force aim to fin­ish strong for ‘Sea of Blue’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - JOHN GOLIATH

IT’S BEEN rather gloomy in Perth this week, but it’s got noth­ing to do with the terrible weather that has hit the Western Aus­tralian city.

Af­ter a tur­bu­lent sea­son, which saw coach Michael Fo­ley sacked half­way through the cam­paign, the Force have had to deal with a few off-field prob­lems as well, af­ter a cou­ple of al­co­hol­re­lated in­ci­dents in Bloem­fontein fol­low­ing their de­feat against the Chee­tahs last Satur­day.

The Force have only 13 points from 13 matches so far this sea­son – only the South­ern Kings and the Sun­wolves have fewer points than the Aus­tralian side. So you would think that the Storm­ers don’t re­ally have much to worry about in to­day’s match at the nib Sta­dium.

Last week­end’s in­ci­dents, and the harsh words that fol­lowed, may just gal­vanise the be­lea­guered Force side to come to­gether and fin­ish the sea­son off on a high. They have noth­ing to lose, while the Storm­ers need a win to se­cure their place in the play­offs. It’s a clas­sic case of a ba­nana skin match for the Cape side, who have al­ready tripped up once this year when they drew 17-17 against the Sun­wolves in Sin­ga­pore.

For­mer UCT coach Dave Wes­sels, who was ap­pointed in­terim coach last month, said the Force are de­ter­mined to put their best foot for­ward game against the Storm­ers and fin­ish the sea­son on a pos­i­tive note.

“As a team we are re­ally fo­cused on putting ev­ery­thing into th­ese last 160 min­utes of the sea­son,” Wes­sels told the Force’s web­site. “We were dis­ap­pointed not to win in Bloem­fontein but felt – par­tic­u­larly in the se­cond half – that we played some good at­tack­ing rugby.

“The Storm­ers are a qual­ity side – with a strong set-piece – and are try­ing to lock in a home fi­nal. We know they will come out re­ally hard, but we are fo­cus­ing on what we can do to im­prove on the good things we did in South Africa and fin­ish­ing strong for the ‘Sea of Blue’.”

The Storm­ers’ tac­ti­cal kick­ing has been er­ratic this year, while their exits from their 22 have caused them un­nec­es­sary headaches.But with 100% chance of show­ers pre­dicted to­day in Perth, they will have to be re­ally sharp in the kick­ing de­part­ment.

Fly­half Jean-Luc du Plessis put in a few top tac­ti­cal kicks in the vic­tory over the Rebels last week­end. He also con­trib­uted 27 points in a great all-round dis­play, and needs to take charge if the Storm­ers are go­ing to leave Aus­tralia un­beaten.

“There is big rain pre­dicted for the next two days, so exits are go­ing to be a big fo­cus for us and need to be spot-on,” coach Rob­bie Fleck said. “Jean-Luc is a work in progress, and the way he per­formed in the se­cond half was ex­actly what we were looking for in a fly­half. He keeps it sim­ple and keeps our pack mov­ing for­ward.

“We want him to make those good de­ci­sions – when it’s time to run, he must run. When it’s time to find space, he must do that.

“With that sort of weather, you need a fly­half who has op­tions and need to make good de­ci­sions, along with the scrumhalf – play in the right ar­eas, and to keep ball-in-hand and put them un­der pres­sure.”

JEAN-LUC DU PLESSIS: ‘Keeps the pack mov­ing for­ward’

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