The Stormers loose forwards will have a point to prove against the Cheetahs at Newlands this Saturday following a disappointing display against the Bulls, writes JON CARDINELLI.
The Stormers are coming off a 17-13 loss to the Bulls in Pretoria. In that fixture, the Cape side battled to impose itself at the scrums and breakdowns, and failed to deal with the Bulls' accurate kicking game.
The defeat saw the Stormers dropping down the Africa 1 conference table to second place. No doubt they will be looking to atone for last week's disappointment with a more physical and tactically accurate performance against the Cheetahs. Ultimately, they will hope to regain the lead in the Africa 1 conference before the Super Rugby tournament breaks for the June Tests.
While they should beat the Cheetahs at Newlands, the manner and extent of victory will depend on the performance of their forwards. The back row of Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Siya Kolisi and Nizaam Carr in particular will need to produce an improved display at the collisions and breakdowns. Schalk Burger will miss the game due to injury.
The Cheetahs are unlikely to qualify for the playoffs. They have won three of their 11 matches to date. While they beat the Kings and the Sunwolves (twice) by convincing margins, they're yet to beat any of the more established teams.
That said, the Cheetahs attack has impressed in 2016. According to SARugbymag.co.za's Opta-powered stats, the Cheetahs are ranked fifth in the competition for tries scored (38). Winger Sergeal Petersen has scored the second-most tries (seven), and has also made the second-most clean breaks (20).
The Stormers' defence will be under pressure in this clash. The Cape side has endured a rotten run of late – a home loss to the Waratahs, a draw with the Sunwolves in Singapore, and most recently a defeat to the Bulls at Loftus – and their defensive standards have slipped. Their tackle completion in the match against the Waratahs was 85% and just 82% against the Bulls. In all three of those games, they failed to win the collisions.
The Stormers will be determined to bounce back. A number of players on both sides will want to make a statement. The first Springbok squad of the season will be announced on Saturday evening, and so the match at Newlands may show national coach Allister Coetzee who deserves to be in the starting side against Ireland on 11 June.
The Stormers disappointed at the scrum last week, but should be favourites to boss a Cheetahs pack that has the worst scrum success rate in the competition (73%). Of more interest will be the battle at the lineout, where Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit will look to outplay Lood de Jager. While the latter player started for the Boks in their 2015 World Cup semi-final, Du Toit has been the form No 5 in this year's Super Rugby tournament.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Stormers 11, Cheetahs 6
In Cape Town: Stormers 7, Cheetahs 1
STATS AND FACTS
– The Stormers have won 11 of their last 14 games against the Cheetahs, including each of the last two in a row by a combined 40-point margin.
– After a loss in their last home fixture the Stormers will be aiming to avoid back-to-back home losses for the first time since their last two games of the 2011 season.
– The Cheetahs will be looking for back-to-back wins for the first time since their opening two fixtures of the 2015 season after beating the Kings in their last fixture.
– The Cheetahs have won an average of 14.1 lineouts per game so far this campaign, the most of any team, though they rank 10th for lineout success (87.6%).
– The Stormers are the best team in the competition this season when it comes to winning opposition lineouts, stealing 2.6 per game on average; Eben Etzebeth (nine) and Pieter-Steph du Toit (eight) have stolen more than any other individuals this season.
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Stormers||Jean-Luc du Plessis (72)||Vincent Koch (3)||Cheslin Kolbe (640)||Pieter-Steph du Toit (97)|
|Cheetahs||Niel Marais (68)||Sergeal Petersen (7)||Sergeal Petersen (718)||Paul Schoeman (85)|
Stormers – 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Daniel du Plessis, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe (c), 2 Bongi Mbonambi 1 Oli Kebble.
Subs: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Alistair Vermaak, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Brandon Thomson, 23 Johnny Kotze.
Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (c), 12 Michael van der Spuy, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lood de Jager, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Charles Marais.
Subs: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Luan de Bruin, 19 Henco Venter, 20 Neill Jordaan, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Niel Marais, 23 Nico Lee.
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffee (New Zealand), Nick Briant (New Zealand)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
Photo: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images