Chiefs coach offers brutally honest assessment of his rivals
Chiefs coach Colin Cooper believes that South African sides have taken a general turn for the better in the 2018 Super Rugby competition because of their ability to play a more rounded game.
Cooper‚ who is in his first year in charge of the Chiefs following the departure of the successful Dave Rennie‚ has taken note of the way SA teams across the board have been looking to offload and keep the ball alive.
The Chiefs take on the Stormers at Newlands this weekend‚ which is a must-win game for both teams.
The Stormers have a 100% winning ratio at home in 2018 with five wins from five‚ but they also have a 100% losing record away from Newlands.
The Chiefs are still in play-off position but are fourth in the New Zealand Conference after losing at home to the Jaguares last week.
It was a big dent in their campaign so winning in SA against either the Stormers or the Sharks next week‚ is imperative.
“All the South African teams are playing a more balanced game‚” Cooper said at the team’s Cape Town base.
“They are still using their set piece well‚ but there is also expansiveness now. South African rugby is looking good and exciting.
“When we played the Bulls‚ we were quite amazed that they threw the ball around so much and didn’t revert to their lineout driving.
“Their expansiveness was great‚ the Lions are the same‚ and you’re seeing more of it from the Sharks and Stormers.
"There is no doubt that they are still sticking to their [traditional] strengths‚ but they’re definitely looking more dangerous all around.”
The stats back his assertion up as well.
The Stormers‚ Lions and Bulls are in the top five for ball carries while the Lions and Stormers are in the top three for defenders beaten.
In terms of tries scored the four SA sides rank in the top five – an almost unheard of scenario in the past decade.
“The SA sides have always been tough to beat at home‚ but they’re now getting better when they travel‚” Cooper said.
“We saw how the Sharks nearly beat the Hurricanes in Wellington.
"In the past‚ the travel factor has been a hindrance to SA teams‚ but they’re getting better and better. However‚ their expansive game is the real edge that they are bringing now.”
Despite this the Chiefs will still pose a dangerous threat to the Stormers as they will have their full All Black contingent of Brodie Retallick‚ Nathan Harris‚ Anton Leinert-Brown‚ and Damian McKenzie.
They leave before next week’s match against the Sharks in Durban to attend an All Black training camp.
“Our attack has to be better and more clinical this week‚” Cooper said.
“There is a passion for rugby in Cape Town and our young guys have to get ready for the contest that’s coming.”