Cape Town – For the second week in a row, a nagging back complaint will keep Tiaan Liebenberg on the sidelines and Scarra Ntubeni in the middle of the scrum, and the latter “must be more forceful” when the Stormers square up against the Southern Kings in their crunch Super Rugby derby at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
The veteran hooker was a late withdrawal from last week’s showdown against the Cheetahs at Newlands with back spasms, and Ntubeni made his Super Rugby starting debut in an impressive 28-3 win.
A solid set piece laid the platform for two of the hosts’ three tries against the Free Staters, with Deon Fourie scoring from the back of a line-out drive while Siya Kolisi powered over after a five-metre scrum.
But Matt Proudfoot sees lots of potential in Ntubeni and he consequently holds the 22-year-old to a high standard.
“We were messy at the line-out,” the Stormers forwards coach said on Tuesday. “We got some results, but it wasn’t as tidy as what it’s usually been.
“The scrum was pretty good, but we’re still too reactive there.
“I’d like to see us be more forceful in our thought process, we’re still too pensive with the call.”
Ntubeni found his jumpers with 94percent accuracy, as the hosts took 15 of 16 throw-ins and stole three balls off the Cheetahs.
That’s well above the Stormers’ season-average of 85 percent efficiency on their own line-out feed.
After a shaky start, the Stormers tight five dug in against the Cheetahs’ all-Springbok front row, and it’s at the engagement where Proudfoot wants to see more leadership from Ntubeni.
“We’re hitting our target nicely and the system is functioning nicely at scrum time,” he said.
“But I’d like to see Scarra have the same mentality as Tiaan – he brings a forcefulness to the pack.
“Talent-wise, Scarra is unbelievable, but I’d like him to have that forcefulness. He needs to unearth that doggedness and be more forceful. Tiaan’s got that in spades. Maybe at 31 he’s slowing down a bit, but he brings that attitude. Scarra has got it physically, but he needs to lead the pack emotionally, like he did during last year’s Currie Cup.
“When he does that, we’ll be able to move the pack up a level.”
Though the Kings are at the bottom of the SA conference, the Stormers pack will have to step up against what Proudfoot believes is “the best maul in Super Rugby”.
“They’ve had a remarkable season for a first-year team,” he said.
“Physically they’re one of the toughest sides to play and their scrum is very good.” – The Star