Stormers must make statement

The Stormers need to beat the Kings convincingly at Newlands on Saturday and take some momentum into the playoffs, writes JON CARDINELLI.

Stormers coach Robbie Fleck has opted to rest Springboks Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit for the Cape side's final match of the conference stage. This is hardly surprising, given that the Stormers have already clinched the Africa 1 conference title, and given the poor quality of the opposition.

That said, the Stormers have plenty to play for this week, and in the weeks to come. They will want to produce a clinical and polished performance on the eve of the playoffs. They will want to take some confidence and momentum into next week's quarter-final, which will be staged at Newlands.

It's been six years since the Stormers last won a playoff match. Following the resounding 25-6 win against the Waratahs in the 2010 semi-final at Newlands, they were thumped 25-17 by the Bulls in the final in Soweto.

In 2011, the Stormers were hammered 29-10 by the Crusaders in the semi-final at Newlands. In 2012, the Cape side suffered a 26-19 defeat to a Sharks side that had travelled extensively in the preceding weeks. And more recently, in the 2015 qualifier staged in Cape Town, the Stormers slumped to a 39-19 loss against the Brumbies.

It's fair to say the Stormers have a lot to prove in next week's playoff. A convincing performance against the Kings would certainly boost their confidence in the buildup to the all-important match.

The Kings have been a disappointment in their comeback season. Many have described them as 'brave' and 'plucky', but the stats suggest that they have battled to remain competitive.

According to SARugbymag's Opta-powered stats, the Kings have conceded the most points (632) and tries (87) to date. While not the worst attacking unit in the competition (three teams have scored fewer tries, and the Force have scored fewer points), they have really struggled to impose themselves with ball in hand and with the boot.

The Kings are still searching for their first win against a South African opponent. They've won two matches this season, but it would be a stretch to say those wins were convincing.

The Sunwolves spurned several chances to kick for goal in a tight contest in Port Elizabeth. The Kings then struggled to put a 13-man Jaguares side away at the same venue later in the tournament.

The Kings may avoid the wooden spoon thanks to another South African team (the Sharks should beat the Sunwolves on Friday, a result that will ensure that the Japanese side finishes at the foot of the overall table). However, that should provide small consolation to a Kings side that hasn't been much better than the Sunwolves (in terms of results and performance) in 2016.

Overall: Stormers 2, Kings 0
In Cape Town: Stormers 1, Kings 0

– There have been only two previous encounters between these teams in which 66 points were scored in total.
– The Stormers come into this game on the back of a three-game winning streak, the last time they won four in a row was in the opening four rounds of the 2015 season.
– The Kings have lost their last 11 games away from home and have conceded an average of 46.5 points per game in that run.
– The Kings have boasted a 90% lineout success rate this season, the fifth best in Super Rugby, however the Stormers have stolen 44 opposition lineouts in 2016, 15 more than any other side.
– The Kings have gained just 312m per game on average this season, fewer than any other side, while they have conceded 604m per game, over 60m more than any other team.
Source: Opta

Team Top point-scorer Top try-scorer Most metres gained Most tackles
Stormers Jean-Luc du Plessis (122) Kobus van Wyk, Leolin Zas (5) Cheslin Kolbe (665) Pieter-Steph du Toit (126)
Kings Louis Fouché (81) Steven Sykes, Chris Cloete, Edgar Marutlulle (4) Shane Gates (417) CJ Velleman (115)

Stormers – 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Schalk Burger (c), 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Alistair Vermaak.
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 JP Smith, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Brandon Thomson, 23 Scott van Breda.

Kings – 15 Malcolm Jaer, 14 Lukhanyo Am, 13 Stefan Watermeyer, 12 Shane Gates, 11 Wandile Mjekevu, 10 Dewald Human, 9 James Hall, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 Andisa Ntsila, 5 JC Astle, 4 Steven Sykes (c), 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Edgar Marutlulle (c), 1 Sti Sithole.
Subs: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Schalk Ferreira, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Schalk Oelofse/Sintu Manjezi, 20 Aidon Davids, 21 Kevin Luiters, 22 Elgar Watts, 23 Jeremy Ward.

Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman (South Africa), Rodney Bonaparte (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

SA Rugby magazine team's SuperBru picks

Sharks vs Sunwolves

Cheetahs vs Bulls

Jaguares vs Lions

Crusaders vs Hurricanes

Highlanders vs Chiefs

Brumbies vs Force

Blues vs Waratahs

Reds vs Rebels

Photo: Carl Fourie/Gallo Images

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Jon Cardinelli