The Stormers will meet one of their biggest challenges of the 2018 Super Rugby competition at Newlands today – the Chiefs (kick-off 3.05 pm).
It’s a fixture that will always be a big one, and this one is even bigger. It’s a must-win for the Stormers to stay in the running for a spot in the play-offs, while the Chiefs will want to bounce back from their defeat to the Jaguares.
But the New Zealanders will also be targeting this game as it’s the only one of their two matches on their tour to South Africa where they will have their All Black players available. So, with all of that adding to an exciting mixture, here are four Chiefs who are almost guaranteed to add to that excitement.
The fact that his game time was carefully managed against Super Rugby’s surprise package the Jaguares last week says a lot about the attitude the Chiefs are taking into the game against the Stormers. They want to win it. And that cannot be doubted. Retallick’s influence is massive, and Stormers skipper Siya Kolisi knows as much. At the team announcement on Thursday, Kolisi said: “With Brodie starting this week it’ll be a different thing. He plays a big role for them and he lifts their confidence. We watched the game against the Bulls, he played really well and that inspired the team.”
Coach Robbie Fleck agreed that the All Black mammoth can easily be the difference in tight games: “He’s a class player, one of the world’s best. He certainly was missed last weekend. He came on and you could see the difference he made. He was the difference between the two teams and that’s what you’d expect from an international player of his quality.”
When Stormers assistant coach Paul Feeney described Damian McKenzie as a “little Beauden Barrett” earlier this week, he wasn’t exaggerating. Although the pacey 10 shouldn’t be described as a smaller version of anything or anyone, we’re talking about the 2016 version of Barrett. What McKenzie is capable of sparking on attack is outrageous, but he can set his mates up just as well as he can create it on his own. He has the hands of an experienced magician. His speed is something else. His vision and awareness is superb. Oh, and he has this freakish ability to make ridiculously skilful productions look routine. Natural. And certainly instinctive. For one player to pose any more red flags to the opposition’s defence - or the opposition in general - just wouldn’t be fair.
Of all the skills this man has shown, it’s his hands that must have Sonny Bill Williams sitting a little less snug on his offloading throne. His offloading game is next level, and the only thing that makes his ability to keep the ball moving even more impressive is his knack for staying on his feet (which is an ability on its own). It was Dillyn Leyds who produced the offload of the year with that spectacular pass against the Chiefs at Newlands last season. And although the two sides’ offloading game will be only one of a number of contests today, it certainly is going to be one of the most exciting ones. Hello Anton Lienert-Brown.
Stormers: 15 SP Marais, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Chris van Zyl, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Ramone Samuels, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16 Scarra Nt/ubeni, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Cobus Wiese, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 23 Seabelo Senatla.
Chiefs: 15 Charlie Ngatai (captain), 14 Toni Pulu, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Johnny Faauli, 11 Solomon Alaimalo, 10 Damian McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber, 8 Tyler Ardron, 7 Liam Messam, 6 Luke Jacobson, 5 Michael Allardice, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe
Replacements: 16 Liam Polwart, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Jeff Thwaites, 19 Jesse Parete, 20 Pita Gus Sowakula, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Marty McKenzie, 23 Shaun Stevenson.