The Stormers are in disarray with their worst tour results for 16 years and their club in turmoil at home. The Waratahs are at the crossroads and have to win this game after losing two out of their last three otherwise they will be way back in the pack.
The Stormers have won only one game out of six and that was by one point.
Last week they played with a depleted team but although they scored two tries to one, some inexperienced players kept making the same mistakes. Although they got close at the end they lost a mistake-ridden game against a team who weren’t much better than they were.
The Stormers lineouts were a shambles against the Reds due to the poor throwing of Deon Fourie (playing his first game at hooker this year), the inexperience of the locks, and there being no gap kept between the lines by the referee—all of which made for a lolly scramble. They lost eight of them.
The Waratahs brand of rugby got Jaked in Durban just as it did in Canberra in Round 5. Like the Brumbies against the Tahs, the Sharks were willing to give up possession for territory, and when the Waratahs kept giving away penalties the home team was in the right real estate to kick penalty goals. The Sharks also neteured the Tahs running game when they weren’t stuffing it up themselves, and won easily in the end.
The expansive running style of the Tahs is not beating good teams because they don’t have the rest of the package. They need a scrum that is not penalised, and a kicking game that lets them exit from their own half when they have to.
They also lack a strong core of precision passing and soft hands for receiving, plus a streak of deception. Also, they are not breaching the barriers put up by good defensive teams because they push too many low percentage passes to receivers about to get tackled. They should pass earlier or go to ground, instead of dropping the ball.
The Stormers were already reeling from injuries before Round 7 and their brilliant ball-runner, fullback Gio Aplon, was injured against the Reds. Jaco Taute starts in his place this week.
There was more bad news during the week because skipper Jean de Villiers was not considered for the Tahs’ game because of a cyst on the knee. No. 8 Duane Vermeulen takes over the captaincy.
Winger Kobus van Wyk, who was discarded after committing the howler when Coleman scored in the corner for the Brumbies, comes back into the run-on team. This enables Damian de Allende to move to inside centre.
The Stormers lineout is a pale shadow of the unit when Andries Bekker was in his pomp not too long ago. De Kock Steenkamp and internationals Manuel Carizza and Eben Etzebeth are not available, but at least Ruan Botha is recovered from injury and back in the second row this week. Though he is not highly rated himself he will be more effective than lineout pygmy Jurie van Vuuren.
Deon Fourie, the last fellow you want in your pub darts team, retains his spot at hooker, instead of going to the backrow where he belongs.
The Stormers will have to fix up their lineout as a bare minimum and improve their kicking from hand.
The Waratahs will have to improve in all the matters mentioned above and improve their discipline—and start doing so in Cape Town, but they could see an opportunity in how the Stormers play sometimes.
The home team is hard in contact and make opponents get numbers into the breakdown to protect their ball , but they are good at working out when to commit their players. They are happy to spread out and trust their zone defence along their tackle line when the runners arrive.
They don’t shoot out defenders usually, and that could mean that the Tahs’ backline gets a couple more steps in before the tackle.
And based on the game at Suncorp they shouldn’t have as much trouble with the Stormers kicking game, which was poor, compared to the good stuff that the Sharks dished up.
The Waratahs are without their star player, Israel Folau, again, because his throat is still tender. Kurtley Beale will be the fullback, swapping with Jono Lance who plays at inside centre, his preferred position. Winger Alofa Alofa replaces Rob Horne who is suspended.
No. 8 Cliff Palu is omitted after injuring his ankle in Durban; so skipper Dave Dennis moves to his spot from the blindside flank. Jacques Potgieter moves to the side of the scrum and Will Skelton comes from the bench to play in the second row. Despite their scrum being pinged repeatedly last week, the front row is retained.
The Stormers may be the second-last team in the competition but they threatened to win their four lost games on tour until the last five minutes. They also have a fine backrow, and can’t be taken lightly.
And they will be wanting to take out their frustrations against their visitors, who have problems of their own, with their home crowd cheering them on.
Despite that, and the atrocious away record of the Waratahs in recent years, I think the visitors will win; just.
Waratahs by 3
1. Steven Kitshoff
2. Deon Fourie
3. Frans Malherbe
4. Ruan Botha
5. Michael Rhodes
6. Nizaam Carr
7. Siya Kolisi
8. Duane Vermeulen (c)
9. Louis Schreuder
10. Peter Grant
11. Sailosi Tagicakibau
12. Damian de Allende
13. Juan de Jongh
14. Kobus van Wyk
15 Jaco Taute
16. Stephan Coetzee
17. Oliver Kebble
18. Brok Harris
19. Tazz Fuzani
20. Sikhumbuzo Notshe
21. Nic Groom
22. Demetri Catrakilis
23. Michael van der Spuy
1. Benn Robinson
2. Tatafu Polota-Nau
3. Sekope Kepu
4. Will Skelton
5. Kane Douglas
6. Jacques Potgieter
7. Michael Hooper
8. Dave Dennis (c)
9. Nick Phipps
10. Bernard Foley
11. Peter Betham
12. Jono Lance
13. Adam Ashley-Cooper
14. Alofa Alofa
15. Kurtley Beale
16. Tolu Latu
17. Jeremy Tilse
18. Paddy Ryan
19. Pat McCutcheon
20. Stephen Hoiles
21. Brendan McKibbin
22. Matt Carraro
23. Cam Crawford.
Location: Newlands, Cape Town
Kickoff: Sunday 6th April 3:10 am (check change to Standard Time); Saturday 5th April 7.10 pm (Local time)
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand) and Quinton Immelman (South Africa)
Television Match Official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)