The Stormers will be looking for their first win on a gruelling overseas tour in Canberra on Saturday.
The Cape franchise have won just one of their opening four matches and sit 13 points behind log-leaders the Sharks. Their game plan and style is unimaginative – Gio Aplon aside – and injuries have ravaged their squad depth at lock. No team in the competition has scored fewer tries or made less offloads. Their set piece is average.
However, there's hope in the way the Stormers have played over the past two weeks against the Crusaders and the Chiefs. They went down by a point in Christchurch and hauled themselves back to only trailing 24-20 against the champions before conceding two late tries. Schalk Burger has also looked reborn on this tour – flying into rucks and tackles and carrying with purpose.
But those negatives outweigh the positives. The lock pairing for Canberra of Ruan Botha and Michael Rhodes are nowhere near the level of Eben Etzebeth, De Kock Steenkamp and Manuel Carizza. All three are out injured. Given the Stormers' lineout has only run at a success rate of 81% anyway, the 10th best in the competition, it's difficult to see how they will secure enough set-piece ball to compete against a tight Brumbies unit.
Welcoming back flyhalf Peter Grant puts a familiar set of hands back on the tiller in place of Demetri Catrakilis, while Sailosi Tagicakibau can make something out of nothing on the wing.
That won't be enough against the Brumbies, though. An impressive win over the Waratahs last week was a big result for coaches Stephen Larkham and Laurie Fisher considering the number of players they have out injured. Henry Speight is the latest man to drop out, so Joe Tomane's return is well-timed.
Nic White and Matt Toomua have been dynamic so far in picking apart opposing sides, leading to 11 tries, but patience will be required against the Stormers, who have a stubborn defence.
However, it just feels like a game too far on the third leg of a physically and mentally gruelling tour for the Stormers, who are yet to produce a complete performance.
Brumbies – 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Joe Tomane, 13 Andrew Smith, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Robbie Coleman, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (c), 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Jordan Smiler, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 JP Smith.
Subs: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 Ruaidhri Murphy, 19 Jack Whetton, 20 Lachlan McCaffrey, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Stephan Van Der Walt, 23 Lionel Cronje.
Stormers – 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Jean de Villiers, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Deon Fourie, 5 Michael Rhodes, 4 Ruan Botha, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Oliver Kebble, 18 Brok Harris, 19 Siya Kolisi, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Demetri Catrakilis, 23 Juan de Jongh.
Photo: Luigi Bennett/Gallo Images