A youthful Stormers back division will do well to keep the Sunwolves attack in check at Newlands this Friday, writes JON CARDINELLI.
The Sunwolves aren't going to win the 2016 Super Rugby tournament. They're not going to win the Africa 1 conference, and it's highly unlikely that they will go on to feature in the 2016 playoffs.
That said, the Sunwolves have been competitive in their debut Super Rugby season. While they've lost all five of their matches to date, three of those defeats have been by a margin of five points or less.
Their attack has been a revelation and the efforts of their flyhalf have been praised. Tusi Pisi has proved a threat with ball in hand and with those well-weighted grubbers and chip kicks into space.
Pisi won't feature for the Sunwolves at Newlands this Saturday. And yet the Stormers will do well to limit the space of the Sunwolves backline and keep the visitors' attack in check.
What will help their cause is the fact that their pack is in form and has enjoyed a week's rest following the bye in round six. The Stormers backline, however, is another story.
While they built up some confidence against the Brumbies and Jaguares, they have suffered further injuries in the positions of scrumhalf and flyhalf. With Nic Groom, Jano Vermaak, Robert du Preez and Kurt Coleman all on the injured list, the Stormers will go into the game against the Sunwolves with a third-choice halfback combination.
It's vital that the Stormers forwards ease the pressure on a new-look back division. It's important that the hosts create early opportunities, and that Jean-Luc du Plessis kicks his goals.
It wouldn't surprise to see the Sunwolves attacking young Du Plessis's channel this Friday. The Stormers need to keep that threat contained, and prevent the Sunwolves from generating momentum. As we saw last week in Port Elizabeth, the Japanese side has the ability to run in five-pointers from their own tryline.
Despite the setbacks, the Stormers will be favourites to win this clash against the Super Rugby newcomers. There may even be an opportunity to claim a try-scoring bonus point in the latter stages.
While they've suffered losses at 9 and 10, the Stormers were recently boosted in areas like lock and centre. Rynhardt Elstadt and Damian de Allende will make their respective returns from injury this Friday.
Both could have key roles to play when deployed from the bench in the second half. The Stormers have already claimed one try-scoring bonus point this season, and will be looking to notch up a second against the Sunwolves.
HEAD TO HEAD
This is the teams' first meeting.
STATS AND FACTS
– The Sunwolves have scored 55 points in their last two games against teams from South Africa.
– The Stormers are the only South African team who are yet to trail at the half-time break so far this season.
– The Stormers have won six of their last seven regular season matches at home when hosting a team from outside of South Africa.
– Sunwolves lock Tim Bond made 14 carries in his side’s loss to the Kings, the equal second most of any player across the round, and teammate Tusi Pisi (13) was just one behind.
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Stormers||Kurt Coleman (38)||Leolin Zas (2)||Cheslin Kolbe (304)||Eben Etzebeth (57)|
|Sunwolves||Tusi Pisi (53)||Akihito Yamada (5)||Akihito Yamada (344)||Shota Horie (48)|
Stormers – 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Juan de Jongh (c), 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Schalk Burger, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 JD Schickerling, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Oli Kebble.
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Rynhardt Elstadt, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Huw Jones, 23 Damian de Allende.
Sunwolves – 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Viliami Lolohea, 13 Mifiposeti Paea, 12 Derek Carpenter, 11 Akihito Yamada, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Yuki Yatomi, 8 Tomás Leonardi, 7 Ed Quirk, 6 Liaki Moli, 5 Timothy Bond, 4 Shinya Makabe, 3 Takuma Asahara, 2 Shota Horie (c), 1 Masataka Mikami.
Subs: 16 Takeshi Kizu, 17 Ziun Gu, 18 Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 19 Yoshiya Hosoda, 20 Andrew Durutalo, 21 Atushi Hiwasa, 22 Harumichi Tatekawa, 23 Yasutaka Sasakura.
Referee: Nicholas Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)
Photo: Lionel Ng/Getty Images