Just because Benetton beat the Bulls in the Rainbow Cup final doesn’t mean that all South African sides need to be spooked about facing the Italian outfit in the United Rugby Championship.
That was the gist of the message from Stormers hooker Scarra Ntubeni from Treviso yesterday ahead of the Capetonians’ clash at the Stadio Monigo on Saturday (2pm SA time kickoff).
Benetton, captained by former Stormers scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage, swept the floor with Jake White’s Bulls in June. The unfancied Italian club used a mixture of forward power and serious pace in the backline to catch the Pretoria side off-guard.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the same fate awaits the Stormers, despite the fact that they went down to the Bulls in the Currie Cup semi-finals.
John Dobson’s team are encouraged by their performance against the Sharks in Durban in their last Currie Cup league game, where they threw caution to the wind and scored some sparkling tries.
They embraced the same approach against the Bulls, and scored five tries at Loftus Versfeld in a 48-31 defeat.
So, Ntubeni urged his team to continue on that path against Benetton.
“We did our homework. There is a lot more structure, especially with the first few phases. Small things like in Currie Cup, people don’t usually go into the 15 once they’ve been tackled. So, it’s small things that we will have to adjust to and be awake, and have a lot more calmness,” the Bok hooker said yesterday.
“But it’s not a headache. We trained it today and we just came off the pitch now. There will be a lot of tweaks, but I think we shouldn’t fear that, or scared of the little tweaks – we should embrace that.
“They also haven’t played a lot against South African teams, so we shouldn’t put too much emphasis on how they play – we should keep our DNA and just get better, and execute. Less errors, and make sure you know what your job is, and do your job. Hopefully things will go our way.”
Ntubeni added that the Stormers have their own strike-runners who can trouble the Benetton defence, such as the “trigger-happy” Edwill van der Merwe, as well as Sergeal Petersen out wide, while he praised the early influence of new flyhalf Manie Libbok on the team’s attacking approach.
“It’s nice to have a player with a different way of thinking, a different outlook, a different mindset. He brings a lot of calmness in the backline… Very, very low error-rate, and someone who can think on his feet as well,” Ntubeni said.
“He’s quite a nicely balanced player, and he has fitted in quite perfectly. It’s good to have him in the mix with us.”
But the Stormers will also be challenged in the physical exchanges by Benetton, especially in the scrums. Ntubeni cited the presence of veteran prop Brok Harris – who has played in Wales for almost a decade – as invaluable for the Cape side, who will also try to assist young props such as Sazi Sandi handle the new European environment.