They don’t come much tougher than Jerry Collins and Schalk Burger but the Hurricanes flanker has detected a growing finesse to the South African’s game as they prepare to square off in Cape Town this weekend.
The Hurricanes and the Stormers have been the big movers among their countries’ Super 14 sides and this will be an influential week 10 match in terms of the tightening playoffs race.
The Hurricanes jumped to third on the back of last weekend’s demolition of the Bulls in Pretoria and the Stormers are only three points off the top four as they emerge themselves in a five-match home streak following their strong tour of Australasia.
Rugbyheaven NZ reports that the loose forward battle, as always, will be crucial to this Newlands encounter and the dimensions of that are enormous when you put players like Burger and Luke Watson up against the Likes of Collins, Chris Masoe and Rodney So’oialo.
They play similar games and there’s clearly plenty of mutual admiration going about in the lead-up to this crunch match.
Collins was open in his regard for Burger’s play when he spoke to the Cape Times newspaper: “Schalk and Luke Watson seem to be going really well together. Under the guidance of Rassie (Erasmus, Stormers coach), Schalk has started stepping and made better use of the ball.
“He has been more of a ball player than what he was in the past.”
Burger’s intensity is enormous and it’s his sheer determination that makes him such a nuisance at the breakdowns. He’s also lethal in the tackle.
Collins believes the new aspects of Burger’s play should help to improve his longevity for the non-stop loose forward’s role in the modern game.
“The coach is pretty smart and to make your career last longer, you add the step to make sure that you do play for longer. Schalk has been doing that pretty well this year and is no longer just a fetcher. He has more skills now,” said Collins.
“It also depends on what kind of regime you play under. The Stormers play a similar style to us. They throw the ball around and their forwards all handle the ball pretty well.”
Collins said he was looking forward to playing in Cape Town after getting out of the intimidating Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria with maximum points.
With a trip back to the highveld for a date with the Cheetahs in Kimberley beckoning next week, the Canes clearly feel far more comfortable in their seaside surroundings in the shadow of Table Mountain.
“Newlands is one of the nicer places to come and play at. The people are much more friendlier than up in Pretoria.
“The support for the All Blacks and the New Zealand teams is pretty big down here. It’s kind of like a home away from home.”
The Hurricanes have a received a setback with talented halfback Alby Mathewson returning home from South Africa to be with his father who is in hospital.
He has been replaced by Brett Goodin from Taranaki, who is a member of the Hurricanes wider training group.
Goodin will arrive in Cape Town in time to be available for selection for the match against the StormersTweet