Stormers can pounce on Crusaders penalties

CAPE TOWN – The Stormers need to hit the Crusaders where it hurts.

Or rather, they should exploit the one area where the Crusaders have been hurting themselves – discipline.

Coach Robbie Fleck’s side host the Super Rugby leaders at Newlands on Saturday (5.15pm kickoff), and while they’ve enjoyed a pretty good run at home, the Crusaders will present all different kinds of challenges.

The Crusaders are undoubtedly the top team in the competition, but they aren’t without flaws.

While the Hurricanes (128) surpassed them (126) as the second most penalised team in Super Rugby at the weekend, the Crusaders’ penalty count is still alarming, and that’s exactly what the Stormers should use to their advantage.

Prior to round 13, only the Sunwolves had conceded more penalties than the Crusaders.

In their 45-13 romp over the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld, there was a continuation of the discipline issues that had plagued them in recent weeks, and the 13 penalties they conceded was testament to that.

At Loftus, the breakdown area proved problematic for Scott Robertson’s side, while the offside issue wasn’t overlooked by referee Rasta Rasivhenge either.

Before their meeting with the Bulls, New Zealand ref Brendon Pickerill pinged the Crusaders 12 times in their 21-21 draw with the Sharks, and last month they were penalised a shocking 18 times against the Highlanders in Christchurch.

So clearly, it’s a problem the Stormers should exploit. If they can make the breakdown a scrappy affair for the visitors, they’ll obviously be doing themselves a favour.

It’s already an area where the Crusaders have kept the referee busy, so the more the Stormers can add to that at Newlands, the better.

Another area that’s been somewhat of a penalty factory for the Crusaders is their scrum, although for the Stormers, it will be a more difficult area to manoeuvre tactically than the breakdown, as sometimes you just never know which way it’s going to go at scrum-time.

If the Stormers can succeed in piling the pressure on the Crusaders at the breakdown especially, and at the scrum, they’ll not only gain more opportunities to get three points, but it just might also hit the Crusaders’ composure a bit.

It’ll be pointless putting in the work to milk those penalties if the Stormers don’t take the points on offer, though.

I’m not saying the tee should be on standby every time Nic Berry’s arm points to the Stormers, but they need to read the situation.

And if it’s best to do so, then go for it.

Until now, the Crusaders have managed to get results despite their penalty woes, and we all know how lethal they are when it comes to punishing the opposition for their mistakes.

But if the Stormers can force them into conceding more penalties in Cape Town this weekend, those penalties just might hurt them more than we expect.

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