Richard Hodges believes it’s crucial that Cardiff produce a performance to fire up the Arms Park crowd when they host the BKT United Rugby Championship holders, DHL Stormers, on Saturday evening (KO 7.35pm).
Dai Young’s men welcome the defending champions to the capital after claiming two key derby wins over the past fortnight.
And while the South African outfit arrive in Cardiff with an impressive run of form of their own, Hodges says it’s a perfect time to show what the club means to the squad.
The assistant coach said: “We spoke in pre-season about needing to get some respect back within the group after the way last season ended and we thought that you primarily do that through the derbies within Wales.
“So the last two weeks have been pleasing in that respect with two big efforts on both sides of the ball, down at Parc y Scarlets and here on the weekend. We just need to keep going now.
“Our season is still early and we’re in a fortunate position where you get three home games on the bounce, which doesn’t happen very often. We’ve just got to take advantage of that.
“The only way in which we could answer some of what was being thrown at us was on the field, and you probably won’t find a better performance in terms of commitment, cohesiveness and effort to make sure that the boys really wanted to replicate that and represent the club in the right manner.
“That’s what we managed to do.
“I went down to the touch-line for the last couple of minutes on Saturday and didn’t realise - because we’re usually locked away in the box - just how vibrant it was.
“When Corey Domachowski tried to put the ball out at the end and missed touch, the crowd got behind them to get that ball back off the line-out two minutes later.
“The Arms Park crowd are fantastic and they will reward effort if they see boys working hard and caring, and will get behind them 100 per cent.
“We spoke before the game about needing to bring the crowd into play. We did that early on in the Munster game but didn’t against the Lions. We did it again on the weekend by scoring a couple of early tries.
“The Arms Park crowd understand their rugby. If the boys are winning then they certainly get behind them but they just want to see a lot of hard work and hard effort.
“The boys care for this shirt and this badge that they’re wearing and I don’t think that could be faulted over the last fortnight.”
Hodges is expecting an interesting challenge against a Stormers outfit who contain a mix of power and athleticism.
He cited the kicking battle and game management as key areas of the match and says the Blue and Blacks will be raring to go when they cross the white line on Saturday.
“You’re only as good as your last game in this gig so I think we had to back-up the Scarlets game and we feel that we did that,” added the defence coach.
“It was great to get the fourth try right at the end as well to get a bonus point win. But obviously the Stormers are unbeaten in 15-games for a reason.
“We know we’re going to face one hell of a challenge on Saturday night, and it’ll be very different to what we’ve faced over the last couple of weeks.
“How we negate giving them the opportunity to get into the game will probably be the decisive factor. We quickly move onto the next challenge and obviously then we’re into Edinburgh before a couple of weeks break and into South Africa.
“So games are coming thick and fast, but we’ve just got to keep chugging away like we have done over the last couple of weeks.
“The Stormers are quick, are full of athletes from one to fifteen and they’ve obviously got a solid front five.
“At number eight they’ve got Evan Roos, who embarrassed us at times in the game over there last year, the back three is electric and Manie Libbok at 10 is someone who can kick from 60 meters off either foot.
“So our backfield will be crucially important but also how we negate the pportunities for that back three to get into the game. We need to keep the game structured and not chaotic.
“We will have opportunities to do that but they will have momentum in the game at some point in time. We just hope that the defence can stand up like it has over the last couple of weeks.
“We’re a bit battered and bruised, as any team would be after making 370 tackles across two derbies. But we’ll just make sure we get to the start line with a full tank of petrol on Saturday night and rip into it.
“The balance will come in around our kicking game and how we work ourselves out of our end. Obviously we’re looking at whether you go off or go for contestable kicks etcetera and how you can manage those different scenarios, which we’ll work on in training.
“I know it was wet and windy down at the Ospreys on Friday night but I thought the Ospreys managed certain parts of that game well. So there’s a bit of a template there for us but as I said, they have a defence that’s probably different to anything else in this league.
“It’s very much the blueprint of the senior Springboks team, almost like a reckless line speed but one that’s very effective. Matt Sherratt has been working on that and a few ways in which we can hopefully try and counteract that.
“It’s great to face a different challenge, it changes your working week as a coach but as I said, we’ve hopefully got a good opportunity on Saturday night to knock them off their perch and also go three from three ourselves.”
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