• Smith to sizzle at Newlands

    Highlanders fullback Ben Smith will present the biggest attacking threat to the Stormers at Newlands this Saturday.

    Last Saturday in Bloemfontein, the Stormers produced their worst defensive performance of the season. They slipped first-time tackles and were especially susceptible when the Cheetahs counter-attacked. Meanwhile in Durban, the Highlanders shocked the Sharks, scoring four tries in a resounding 34-18 win over the Vodacom Super Rugby table-toppers.

    Ben Smith played a major role in that victory, an assertion that is supported by the stats. Smith racked up 119 running metres (ranked one for round 11), and 16 carries (third for round 11).

    The Stormers defence will be under scrutiny when they host Smith and the Highlanders this Saturday. The Cape side cannot afford to miss tackles on the likes of Smith, and their kicking game will have to be on point if they're going to keep this dangerous All Black in check.

    Coach Allister Coetzee has made four changes to his XV with hooker Scarra Ntubeni, flanker Schalk Burger, flyhalf Kurt Coleman and wing Sailosi Tagicakibau all starting.

    The Stormers have won their last five matches against the Highlanders and conceded an aggregate total of only 12 points in the last three. This season the Cape side has scored fewer points (16.1) per game than any other team, while the Highlanders have averaged the second most (27.3).

    HEAD TO HEAD
    Overall: Stormers 7 Highlanders 9, Draw 1
    In Cape Town: Stormers 5 Highlanders 5

    SMITH'S STATS THAT MATTER
    107– Smith's ball carries for the season (Rank 4)
    637 – Smith's running metres for the season (Rank 3)
    Source: Vodacom Stats App

    Stormers  – 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Damian de Allende, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Michael Rhodes, 4 Ruan Botha, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
    Subs: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Oliver Kebble, 18 Brok Harris, 19 Jurie van Vuuren, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Peter Grant, 23 Kobus van Wyk.

    Highlanders – 15 Ben Smith, 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Trent Renata, 10 Liam Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Mani, 7 John Hardie, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Joe Wheeler, 3 Chris King, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Kane Hames.
    Subs: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Matías Díaz, 18 Ma'afu Fia, 19 Jarrad Hoeata, 20 Shane Christie, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Jason Emery, 23 Phil Burleigh.

    Mark Keohane's betting tips

    SA Rugby mag team's SuperBru predictions

    VIDEO: Mark Keohane's predictions for matches involving SA teams

    Super Rugby teams (Round 12)

    Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

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    Jon Cardinelli