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Ken Borland

Sharks wary of Stormers backs’ ‘mutant powers’

Posted on February 28, 2022 by Ken

Wallabies centre Ben Tapuai might not be part of Saturday’s United Rugby Championship match against the Stormers, but he this week provided the most apt description of the threat they will pose to the Sharks in Cape Town when he described their backline stars as almost having mutant powers.

Tapuai received a knock on his knee in training this week and so is not part of the Sharks squad going to Cape Town, but he had a first-hand view of just how dangerous the Stormers backline are in the 22-22 draw at Kings Park last weekend. The visitors made up a 19-3 deficit with half-an-hour to go thanks partly to some dazzling play by their backs, spearheaded by Warrick Gelant, Seabelo Senatla and Damian Willemse.

“The Stormers have some absolute freaks when it comes to stepping, so we have got to be very careful in that space,” Tapuai said.

“We delivered a good performance in the first 50 minutes of the match, but then you need to close out the game in the last 30. The Stormers will go up another level at home, so we have to match that.”

It is a warning that Sharks coach Sean Everitt reiterated later in the week, especially since the conditions in Cape Town are likely to be more conducive to running rugby.

“We have to play according to the conditions we are dealt, but the weather in Durban is pretty extreme at the moment with the humidity,” Everitt said. “Cape Town should be dry this time of year.

“So hopefully we are able to play differently and hold on to the ball for longer periods. But the Stormers backs are certainly full of x-factor.”

The Sharks will know they had plenty of opportunities to beat the Stormers last time out, but those chances and their hopes of a win were flushed down the sewer by poor execution and ill-discipline.

“It was disappointing how we drew the game, but the positive is that we had a lot of opportunities but we just didn’t execute,” Tapuai said. “So we’re kind of excited by that.

“We’re still learning and our combinations will click over time. There are miles of growth ahead of us because I can see a lot of youth in the squad and I’ve lost count how many Springboks there are.”

Getting those combinations to gel is helped by continuity in selection, and Everitt has brought almost the same squad down to Cape Town.

“It’s great to be able to build momentum through consistency of selection,” Everitt said. “It takes time to get that cohesion and the players have had limited time together on the field.

“Rugby is a game of cohesion, the more you play together, the better you get.”

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