Damian to destroy Cheetahs

Damian de Allende will hold the key to the Stormers' bonus-point hopes when they battle the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday, writes JON CARDINELLI.

While the Stormers will be pleased with the recent result against the Vodacom Bulls, they will know that they were fortunate. Handré Pollard missed a 62nd-minute penalty attempt, and his last-ditch drop-kick was charged down by Stormers skipper Duane Vermeulen. That charge down ensured that the Stormers hung on for a 15-13 win, and finished the round at the top of the South African conference.

They will have an opportunity to extend that lead when they play the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein this Saturday. While the result will be a priority, the Stormers stand an excellent chance of banking a four-try bonus point.

Some will have their doubts about the Stormers' attack, and for good reason. Only four teams have scored fewer tries than the Stormers in this year's tournament. The Cape side has accumulated just 18 tries in 2015, and only one in the past two games.

However, they should fancy their chances against one of the worst defences in the competition. The Cheetahs have conceded the most points (300) and the most tries (34). Only the Sharks (217) have missed more tackles than the Cheetahs (212) this season.

The Stormers don't need to change their approach in order to score more tries. They have one of the strongest scrums in the competition (the absence of Eben Etzebeth, due to a Springbok resting agreement, won't be detrimental to the Cape side's cause), and some of the world's best loose forwards in Schalk Burger and Vermeulen. If the pack succeeds in subduing that of the Cheetahs and laying the platform, the dangerous Stormers back division will come into play.

And nobody has been more dangerous than De Allende in 2015. He had a great Vodacom Super Rugby season in 2014, and subsequently received a call-up to the Boks. It's clear that he has taken his game to another level in this year's competition, and he is currently the form No 12 in South Africa.

The stats support this statement. De Allende leads the defenders beaten category (40) and is among the top-five ranked players for clean breaks and try assists. If he receives a steady supply of front-foot ball, he will make inroads into that Cheetahs defence, and create opportunities for the men on his outside.

The Cheetahs side will be significantly weaker due to the absence of Heinrich Brüssow, Willie le Roux and Cornal Hendricks. As he showed in the big win against the Force in Perth, Brüssow's work at the breakdown is so important to the Cheetahs' defensive success. The injury to Le Roux and the resting of Hendricks robs the Cheetahs of two players who have the ability to create and finish on attack.

Sergeal Petersen will make his long-awaited debut for the Cheetahs in this fixture, but may not see much of the ball. If the Stormers play to their potential at the scrums and breakdowns, and stick to their structures on attack, they will win this game by a comfortable margin. And if De Allende fires, the four-try bonus point will be on the cards.

Overall: Cheetahs 4, Stormers 9
In Bloemfontein: Cheetahs 3, Stormers 3

– The last four meetings between these two sides have been won by the home side.
– The Cheetahs have scored fewer than seven points in three of their last five games against the Stormers.
– The Stormers have won nine of the last 11 meetings against the Cheetahs.
– In the most recent meeting between the teams, the Stormers kept the Cheetahs scoreless. It was the only time the Cheetahs have been blanked in Super Rugby.
– The Cheetahs have won a lower proportion of scrum feeds (80%) than any other side while the Stormers have produced the most scrum steals (six).
– The Cheetahs have averaged the most turnovers won this season (9.6). However, opponents of the Stormers have averaged fewer turnovers won (5.6) than against any other team.

Team Top point-scorer Top try-scorer Most metres gained Most tackles
Cheetahs Joe Pietersen (80) Boom Prinsloo, Francois Venter (4) Cornal Hendricks (355) Boom Prinsloo (114)
Stormers Demetri Catrakilis (96) Damian de Allende, Dillyn Leyds, Kobus van Wyk, Juan de Jongh (2) Cheslin Kolbe (606) Nizaam Carr (75)

Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Rayno Benjamin, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Michael van der Spuy, 11 Sergeal Petersen, 10 Joe Pietersen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Boom Prinsloo, 6 Tienie Burger, 5 Francois Uys (c), 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen/Maks van Dyk, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Subs: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Dolph Botha, 18 Maks van Dyk/Ewald van der Westhuizen, 19 Steven Sykes, 20 Carel Greeff, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Francois Brummer, 23 Danie Dames.

Stormers – 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Johnny Kotze, 13 Juan de Jongh (c), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen (c), 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Jean Kleyn 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Oliver Kebble.
Subs: 16 Scara Ntubeni, 17 Allistair Vermaak, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Manuel Carizza, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22  Kurt Coleman, 23 Huw Jones.

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Photo: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images

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Jon Cardinelli