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Stormers must hit Saders where it hurts

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

The Stormers need to hit the Crusaders where it hurts most - discipline. Picture: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

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 – their discipline.

Robbie Fleck’s team will host the Super Rugby log-leaders at Newlands on Saturday (5.15pm kick-off), and while they have enjoyed a pretty good run at home, the Crusaders will of course 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 red and blacks.

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

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

Before their meeting with the Bulls, Kiwi ref Brendon Pickerill pinged the Crusaders 12 times in their 21-all draw against the Sharks. Last month, the Crusaders were penalised a shocking 18 times against the Highlanders in Christchurch.

So clearly it’s a problem. And it’s one that the Stormers have to exploit.

If the Stormers can make the breakdown a scrappy affair for the visitors and encourage that penalty count to rise, they will 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 has 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 gonna go at scrum time. Still, they can try.

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

It will 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 kicking tee should be on standby every single time Nic Berry’s arm points to the Stormers, they need to read the situation, but if it’s best to do so, then go for it.

Until now the Crusaders have managed to get results despite their penalty headache, 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.