CAPE TOWN - Getting the win or doing damage control ... I wonder what is really the Stormers’ goal for their match against the Hurricanes on Friday (9.35am kickoff).
In what has become a real nightmare tour, the Stormers have suffered two defeats against the Crusaders and Highlanders, conceding 57 points in each of those matches. In the build-up to the Wellington clash, Stormers coach Robbie Fleck said that it would be nice to “end the tour off on a high”, but added that regardless of the outcome, his side would return home a stronger, better team.
That is a very true statement, and saying that Fleck’s team has made lot of progress in terms of their new attacking approach is also true. But for this game they have to seriously cut down on making mistakes in opposition 22 and blowing promising scoring opportunities.
We saw it against the Crusaders and against the Highlanders – and apart from the Stormers’ inability to finish, which underlined the fact that they don’t know how to look after the ball when under pressure, the opposition’s linespeed also contributed greatly to that.
But I sure hope the Cape side know how to deal with that aggressive defence a bit better now, because they’re going to face the very same thing on Friday. But, in my opinion, it’s just going to be a bit more intense.
That is one of the Hurricanes’ greatest strengths, and so is their set-piece.
They know how to use the scrum for good attacking ball, and how to get it in and out to their “backline from Jesus” (as scrum coach Dan Cron once said).
And what a backline they have. The biggest gem in that talented backline is, of course, flyhalf Beauden Barrett, and his halfback partnership with TJ Perenara can only be described as lethal.
Perenara, who will captain the side, returns from injury to boost the defending Super Rugby champions’ line-up, while the Stormers will have Robert du Preez and Dewaldt Duvenage pairing up as their halfback combination.
That halfback battle should be a good one, with Du Preez having produced consistently reliable performances for the Stormers, while he’s also added a few great touches to the Stormers’ attack with try-creating cross-kicks and grubbers, and fine passing. And although he’s played his part on defence (at times) in the last two games, he’s been rather quiet when it comes to the above mentioned play.
The Stormers will also have their own Kiwi starting in midfield in Shaun Treeby. The former Highlanders centre will be keen to impress in his first start for the Cape side, while Varsity Cup standout Kobus van Dyk has been included in the loose trio “ to add balance and grit” to Fleck’s back row.
It will also be good to see how props Wilco Louw and Alistair Vermaak, who makes his first start this season, go against Jeffery To’omaga-Allen and Ben May, but the best treat should be the individual contests between the backs.
However things go down in Wellington, at the very least, the Stormers can use this game to go all out in terms of their play and try things. After all ... they have nothing to lose.
Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Vince Aso, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara (captain), 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Callum Gibbins, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Vaea Fifita, 4 Mark Abbott, 3 Jeffery To’omaga-Allen, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Ben May. Bench: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Mike Kainga, 19 James Blackwell, 20 Reed Prinsep, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Otere Black, 23 Ben Lam.
Stormers: 15 SP Marais, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Siya Kolisi (captain), 6 Kobus van Dyk, 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Jan de Klerk, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ali Vermaak. Bench: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Oli Kebble, 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Dan Kriel, 23 Bjorn Basson.
Kick-off: 9.35 am SA time
Referee: Glen Jackson