The Stormers' chances of recording two wins on tour will hinge on the option-taking and execution of flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis, writes JON CARDINELLI.
The Cape side has remained grounded following their 32-18 bonus-point victory against the Waratahs. Earlier this week, assistant coach Robbie Fleck put things into perspective when he said the next game against the Force will define the Stormers' tour. A win in Perth will take their tour tally to a respectable two from four. A loss would mark the sojourn as a one-from-four failure.
If the Stormers build on what they did well against the Waratahs, they should win comfortably in Perth. The Force have scored the second-fewest tries this season, while their defence has been mediocre. Their losing streak may well be extended to eight games when they host the Stormers this Saturday.
The Force will hope that the Stormers are in a complacent mood following the Cape side's big win against the current champions. They will also hope that the Stormers are tired and vulnerable in the last fixture of a month-long tour.
The Stormers have suffered significant setbacks in recent weeks. No 8 Duane Vermeulen has returned to South Africa to rest, as per Saru's agreement with the Stormers. Blindside flank Michael Rhodes suffered a campaign-ending injury last week in Sydney.
Catrakilis took a knock to the head and was replaced by Kurt Coleman in that fixture. And yet, Catrakilis has recovered sufficiently to start at No 10 this Saturday. The Stormers will certainly benefit from his kicking accuracy out of hand and in front of goal when they play a team like the Force.
Rhodes's injury has seen Schalk Burger shifting to his preferred position of blindside, and Siya Kolisi starting at No 6. Damian de Allende, one of the form players in this year's Vodacom Super Rugby tournament, has been retained at No 12.
The Stormers defended brilliantly against the Waratahs last week, and will need to produce another physical performance if they're to boss the collisions and breakdowns in Perth. This will in turn provide the platform for men like Catrakilis to kick for territory or get the backline away.
The Stormers' counter-attacking threat was highlighted last week. The forwards and men like De Allende were good enough to force the turnover with their brutal defence. And then outside backs such as Cheslin Kolbe were good enough to finish.
The first half of this clash will be important. The Stormers will want to build a big lead in those first 40 minutes. The Force will be desperate for a result after seven straight losses, and they will target a tired Stormers side in the last 20 minutes of the game, which will also be the last 20 minutes of the Stormers' tour.
The Cape side must take any early opportunities through the boot of Catrakilis. They must stick to the defence-oriented game plan that proved so successful against the Waratahs, as it will lead to try-scoring opportunities from the counter-atttack.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Stormers 6, Force 2
In Perth: Stormers 3, Force 1
STATS AND FACTS
– The Force are enduring their worst run of form (seven losses) since losing nine straight at the beginning of their inaugural season in 2006.
– The Force failed to reach double figures in their last two meetings with the Stormers.
– The Force have lost their last three games against the Stormers by margins of 25, 14 and 16 points respectively.
– Three of the last four meetings between the sides have seen 32 or fewer points scored.
– The Stormers are aiming to win consecutive away matches outside of South Africa for the first time since April 2012.
– Both Vincent Koch and Ben McCalman have conceded 13 penalties this season. Only one other man (Charlie Faumuina, 14) has conceded more.
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Force||Luke Burton (24)||Chris Alcock, Luke Morahan (2)||Dane Haylett-Petty (279)||Kyle Godwin (61)|
|Stormers||Demetri Catrakilis (76)||Dillyn Leyds, Juan de Jongh, Damian de Allende, Kobus van Wyk (2)||Cheslin Kolbe (522)||Nizaam Carr (52)|
Force – 15 Dane Haylett-Petty, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Luke Burton, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Steve Mafi, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Sam Wykes (c), 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pekahou Cowan.
Subs: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Oliver Hoskins, 19 Ross Haylett-Petty, 20 Angus Cottrell, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Marcel Brache.
Stormers – 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Juan de Jongh (c), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Alistair Vermaak, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Jean Kleyn, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Huw Jones.
The Money Man's betting tips (to come)
Photo: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images