Cape Times

Hlungwani calls on Stormers to stop the ‘squeeze’ from Benetton

- ASHFAK MOHAMED ashfak.mohamed@inl.co.za

WHO will “squeeze” who at the Stadio Monigo on Saturday, when the Stormers and Benetton take aim at each other in the United Rugby Championsh­ip?

Showing patience in defence, dominating the scrums and then ensuring they have a low error-rate in general play appear to be the main factors that will determine the Capetonian­s’ fate against the Rainbow Cup champions on Saturday (2pm kickoff).

The Bulls’ defeat to Benetton in the June final would have provided some real pointers for John Dobson’s team, but it’s one thing knowing what to expect, and another to stop it.

Stormers forwards coach Rito Hlungwani believes that Benetton’s whole game plan is based around their pack, something the Bulls found out to their detriment a few months ago.

“They’ve also got a big pack, and they strive on having a strong set-piece. They try to scrum you for penalties, they maul you ... In the 22, they go for the maul rather than going for points, and they try to squeeze you that way,” Hlungwani said.

“They play off their very big pack and a strong set-piece, and they have a very good general in Dewaldt Duvenage, who puts them in the right areas and makes good decisions, and that helps them get into those comfortabl­e scenarios where they are milking penalties from the opposition.

“And when they get to the 22, they just stay there and try to slowly squeeze you. I strongly think their style or template to play the Bulls is probably exactly what they will use to play us.

“We’ve looked at that game, and the past two games that they’ve played against Edinburgh and Sale Sharks. We learnt a lot about how they approached the Bulls game, but we’ve also seen what they can do in the last two games.

“It is going to be a challenge against these guys. They are, after all, Rainbow Cup champions, but we feel we’ve done well to study how they operate.”

The Italian club don’t have any big names, but work as a unit, with key figures such as ex-Stormers scrumhalf Duvenage, wing

Monty Ioane, hooker Corniel Els and experience­d Argentina prop Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro the backbone of the side.

They also have a number of South Africans in their squad, such as Duvenage, Els, Braam Steyn, Irne Herbst, Carl Wegner, Rhyno Smith and ex-Springbok fullback Andries Coetzee, who will be able to assist their teammates with preparing for SA teams. But the Stormers won’t take a step back in the physical stakes either, especially now that co-captain Salmaan Moerat is back from a neck injury, while they have signed another specialist lock in Adre Smith from Griquas.

“Catching kickoffs – I was a lock myself – is a highlyspec­ialised skill. Having two specialist locks makes a huge difference. They are guys who have been practising that for a long time,” Hlungwani said.

“Salmaan is a very physical lock – that’s what he strives to be – so it makes a huge difference. I have to add Adre Smith, who is a very physical lock as well. “Willie (Engelbrech­t) coming in from the Pumas is a very physical player, so we do have quite a bit of stopping power.”

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