The scrum battle between Vincent Koch and Tony Woodcock will have a profound influence on the game between the Stormers and Blues at Newlands on Saturday, writes JON CARDINELLI.
The Stormers No 3 was outstanding in his Vodacom Super Rugby debut against the Bulls last week. He outscrummed his opposite number, and made a big impact with ball in hand. It's easy to understand why so many people, including several former Bok props, are talking up Koch as South Africa's next big thing at No 3.
Of course, Koch will need to follow up that performance at Loftus with another powerful scrum showing at Newlands. The 24-year-old rookie will be up against a 110-Test veteran in Tony Woodcock. While it's true that Woodcock is not the player he was when the All Blacks won the World Cup in 2011, he will demand more of Koch at this set piece.
The power of the Stormers' collective will aid Koch in his quest to outscrum Woodcock. The Stormers will also fancy their chances at the lineout this weekend, after contesting well against a Victor Matfield-led Bulls set piece last week.
The Blues are coming off a loss to the Chiefs, and have been further disrupted by injuries. While coach John Kirwan named his side on Thursday, he will only finalise who starts on the left wing, openside flank, in both lock positions, and at tighthead prop at a later stage.
The Auckland franchise have one of the best loose forwards in the business in Jerome Kaino. However, if the Blues scrum and lineout don't fire, Kaino and company will struggle to win the collisions.
The Stormers have the backs to play an expansive game, but would do well to keep things tight initially. Throwing the ball around could lead to mistakes, and the Blues have the individuals to turn counter-attacking chances into points.
Demetri Catrakilis is another player who will have a key role to play. The flyhalf needs to ensure the majority of the game is played in Blues territory, and that the Stormers convert early attempts on goal. Catrakilis, and indeed Stormers captain Duane Vermeulen, will feel confident after the goal-kicker's five from six performance at Loftus last week.
The game will mark Vermeulen's 100th in Super Rugby.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Stormers 7, Blues 10
In Cape Town: Stormers 3, Blues 4
STATS AND FACTS
– Four of the last six contests between these sides have seen a losing bonus point awarded
– The Stormers beat the most defenders (26) in round one
– The Blues (5/5) and Stormers (6/6) managed 100% success rates at the scrum last week
– The Stormers have won 21 of their last 25 home matches, a run that dates back to the start of the 2012 season
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Stormers||Demetri Catrakilis (13)||Dillyn Leyds & Duane Vermeulen (1)||Cheslin Kolbe (84)||Michael Rhodes (14)|
|Blues||Ihaia West (18)||n/a||Loliga Visinia (80)||James Parsons (13)|
Stormers – 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Johnny Kotze, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen (c), 7 Michael Rhodes, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Jurie van Vuuren, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Siya Kolisi, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Huw Jones.
Blues – 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Ben Lam, 13 Hamish Northcott, 12 Francis Saili, 11 Tevita Li/Lolagi Visinia, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Jerome Kaino (c), 7 Brendon O'Connor/Luke Braid/Akira Ioane, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Hayden Triggs/Patrick Tuipulotu, 4 Josh Bekhuis/Tuipulotu, 3 Angus Ta'avao/Charles Piutau, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Subs (from): Matt Moulds, Greg Pleasants-Tate, Ofa Tu'ungafasi, Sam Prattley, Charlie Faumuina, Angus Ta'avao, Patrick Tuipulotu/Triggs/Bekhuis, Braid/Iaone/O'Connor, Jamison Gibson-Park, Dan Bowden, Visinia/Li.
Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix