Ryan Crotty is a player the Stormer will be keeping a close eye on. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
Earlier this week, Stormers assistant coach Norman Laker said the Crusaders play with more confidence when Richie Mo’unga and Ryan Crotty are in the team.

The duo were rested against the Sharks while Mitch Hunt and Jack Goodhue started.

They were back against the Bulls and have been named in Scott Robertson’s side for the clash against the Stormers at Newlands tomorrow (kick-off 5.15pm), while the hosts have welcomed back the Springbok trio of Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Damian de Allende.

Kolisi and Du Toit sat out the Stormers’ game against the Jaguares, while De Allende was on the bench.

De Allende comes into the backline in place of Dan Kriel. Wing Seabelo Senatla takes over from the injured Sergeal Petersen, while Josh Stander replaces Jean-Luc du Plessis at flyhalf.

In the forward pack, Kolisi and Du Toit will start at openside and blindside flank respectively, with Jaco Coetzee at the back of the scrum, while Cobus Wiese starts in the second row next to Eben Etzebeth.

The only front row change is on the bench, with Frans Malherbe set to provide cover in the second half.

While Laker was discussing the impact of Crotty, he said: “Crotty and Mo’unga make a big difference. They were absent against the Sharks and you could see the difference when they returned against the Bulls. Everyone plays with more confidence when those two are in the team.”

And while there are no shortage of match-ups, the midfield pairings are interesting. While the Crusaders’ centre selections have been mostly consistent, the Stormers have fielded four different centre pairings.

Until now, De Allende has taken the field with JJ Engelbrecht, Ruhan Nel and Dan du Plessis, while Engelbrecht has also made the run-on side with Dan Kriel.

But tomorrow, what will matter more than the hosts’ changing midfield wardrobe is what the De Allende-Engelbrecht duo will do against Crotty and Goodhue.

Crotty’s communication, understanding of the game, combined with his ability to marshal players around him make him the vital cog in this Crusaders backline.

His passing game, kicking skills and defence add to that, but one of the most dangerous aspects here is how he can create space for Goodhue and co and assess play  something that can prove dangerous to a Stormers outfit who have created no shortage of opportunities, but have struggled with finishing and have often been halted by their own attacking shape.

Then there’s also the gelling aspect of the Crotty-Goodhue combination.

One of the Stormers’ most dangerous weapons is their outside backs, and bringing them into the game - along with directing their defensive alignment - will be key tomorrow for De Allende and Engelbrecht.

What rests on the Stormers’ centres’ shoulders tomorrow is not only keeping their Crusaders counterparts in check, but also creating opportunities and, more importantly, perfecting their roles and helping their team finish those chances.

Will they pass the test? We’ll have to wait and see.

But the test itself should be a good one.

@WynonaLouw 


Cape Times

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