An in-form Schalk Burger will be key to the Stormers' prospects against a stubborn Rebels side at Newlands on Saturday, writes BRENTON CHELIN.
The Stormers have been below their best in recent weeks. The same cannot be said of Burger. The inspirational flank was named Man of the Match following the narrow victory over the Brumbies. The Brumbies may have gained the ascendancy at the breakdowns, but Burger's performance in open play ensured the Stormers came out on top.
The Rebels, as a side, are not too dissimilar to the Brumbies. The loose trio of Sean McMahon, Scott Fuglistaller and Scott Higginbotham will provide a constant menace at the breakdown, while their ability to control possession of the ball for long periods means the Stormers will need to be accurate and disciplined on defence.
Burger manages to do both those things, while losing none of the mongrel that's made him a player of such high regard in world rugby. Throw in his increasing array of Sonny Bill Williams-esque offloads and he's close to being the complete loose forward.
The Stormers benefited from their scrum dominance in the victories over the Vodacom Bulls and the Brumbies, where they were able to convert penalties into points. However, the Rebels boast an equal scrum success (92%), so they will need to assert their dominance elsewhere.
They will look to use the tactical expertise of Demetri Catrakilis to implement a territory-based approach. Against a side like the Rebels, who have struggled for clean breaks this season, such an approach will force them to either run from deep, or kick the ball onto the Stormers’ dangerous back three.
The inclusion of Seabelo Senatla on the wing should give the Stormers an added dimension on attack. In contrast, the Rebels will be without their dangerous attacking weapon, Sefenaia Naivalu, who misses the match with a concussion.
The Rebels have shown already this season they are a capable side on the road, having recorded victories over the Crusaders in Christchurch and the Brumbies in Canberra.
They have punched above their weight this season and still maintain a slim chance of reaching the play-offs. However, if the Stormers play to their strengths, they can strangle the opposition and claim another four log points.
Burger will need to match the younger McMahon at the breakdown and in the collisions. Catrakilis will need to be calculated and kick accurately, while the Stormers will need to show greater composure with the chances that come their way.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Stormers 2, Rebels 1
At Newlands: Stormers 1, Rebels 0
FACTS AND STATS
– The Stormers have won their last four against Aussie opposition, despite trailing at half-time in two of these matches.
– The Rebels are yet to win in South Africa, losing all eight games so far, picking up just two losing points in the process and conceding an average of 40 points per game.
– The three previous games between these sides have seen an average aggregate score of 47 points.
– Only the Hurricanes and the Crusaders have a better scrum success than these two sides (92%).
– Damian de Allende has beaten the most defenders this season (49), 23 more than the top Rebels player (Sean McMahon, 26).
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Stormers||Demetri Catrakilis (121)||Dillyn Leyds (3)||Cheslin Kolbe (832)||Damian de Allende (81)|
|Rebels||Mike Harris (109)||Sefenaia Naivalu (4)||Sefenaia Naivalu (721)||Sean McMahon (117)|
Stormers – 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Duane Vermeulen (c), 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Manuel Carizza, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Alistair Vermaak, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Jean Kleyn, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Huw Jones.
Rebels – 15 Mike Harris, 14 Cameron Crawford, 13 Dom Shipperley, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Tom English, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic Stirzaker, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Cruze Ah-Nau.
Subs: 16 Tom Sexton, 17 Keita Inagaki, 18 Laurie Weeks, 19 Cadeyrn Neville, 20 Jordy Reid, 21 Colby Fainga'a, 22 Luke Burgess, 23 Bryce Hegarty.
Referee – Stuart Berry
Assistants – Quinton Immelman, Rodney Boneparte
TMO – Deon van Blommestein
The Money Man's betting tips (to come)
Photo: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images