Folau to flay Stormers defence

Israel Folau and company will be too strong for the shaky Stormers defence when the Waratahs host the Cape side on Saturday, writes JON CARDINELLI.

The Stormers need to look at their recent match against the Hurricanes in Wellington from another perspective. Much was made – and rightly so – about the referee's shocking performance at the Cake Tin. And yet, questions should also be asked about the Stormers' aggression, discipline and accuracy on defence.

The Cape side is not the defensive unit it was when Jacques Nienaber was still on the Stormers coaching staff. There have been some encouraging moments in 2015, and some outstanding individual performances by Duane Vermeulen and Damian de Allende, but the consistency that characterised the team in recent years is no longer apparent.

Their chances of winning in Sydney this Saturday have taken a big hit now that Vermeulen is no longer available. The Springbok No 8 has been granted a two-week break as per the resting agreement with Saru.

The absence of Vermeulen will be felt at the gainline and breakdown. Vermeulen is not only the brawn behind the Stormers' defensive effort, but the brains as well. Somebody else will need to take charge in terms of the organisation and structure come game day.

Which leaves the Stormers with an uncomfortable question: How do they stop a rampant Waratahs attack?

The Waratahs have the forwards to nullify the Stormers' scrum threat. They have the muscle to edge the collisions and the guile to force turnovers at the breakdowns.

Israel Folau makes an impact in every match he plays, and is currently the tournament leader for metres gained. The powerfully built Wallabies fullback will be especially dangerous if his forwards generate some momentum and provide him with a steady supply of front-foot ball.

The Stormers lack size and experience in their back three, and the Waratahs will look to exploit those weaknesses on Saturday. The Waratahs would be foolish to ignore their considerable weight advantage. They will look to create attacking situations in which the likes of Folau (103kg) is running at Cheslin Kolbe (72kg).

The Waratahs have not been as clinical in 2015 as they were in 2014. But they will fancy their chances against a Stormers side that has been susceptible on defence.

Overall: Waratahs 8, Stormers 10, Draw 1
In Sydney: Waratahs 4, Stormers 3

– The Waratahs have won 12 of their last 13 matches at home.
– The average margin of victory in those 12 wins was 18.5 points.
– The Waratahs have won fewer turnovers per game (5.2) than any other side this season.
– The Stormers have averaged fewer turnovers won (5.4) against the Waratahs than against any other opponent.
– The Stormers have managed more scrum steals than any other side this season.
– Only Damian de Allende (29) has beaten more defenders than Israel Folau (26) in 2015.

Team Top point-scorer Top try-scorer Most metres gained Most tackles
Waratahs Bernard Foley (68) Bernard Foley, Nick Phipps, Peter Betham, Rob Horne, Stephen Hoiles, Taqele Naiyaravoro (2) Israel Folau (677) Michael Hooper (77)
Stormers Demetri Catrakilis (68) Dillyn Leyds, Juan de Jongh (2) Cheslin Kolbe (436) Nizaam Carr, Michael Rhodes (44)

Waratahs – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Matt Carraro, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Jacques Potgieter, 5 David Dennis (c), 4 Will Skelton, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Benn Robinson.
Subs (two to be omitted): 16 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Paddy Ryan, 19 Mitchell Chapman, 20 Pat McCutcheon 21 Stephen Hoiles, 22 Brendan McKibbin, 23 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 24 Peter Betham, 25 Jono Lance.

Stormers – 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Juan de Jongh (c), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Michael Rhodes, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Manuel Carizza, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Jean Kleyn, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Huw Jones.

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Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

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Jon Cardinelli