In Round 14 of Super Rugby, the Western Force look to make it two from two against South African opposition on the road when they meet the Stormers at Newlands this Saturday night.
Last weekend, the Force survived a late charge in the second half after leading 13-6 at the break, to overcome a spirited Cheetahs side 23-16 in Bloemfontein. The Stormers, despite scoring twelve unanswered points after only 18 minutes, were worn down physically by the Bulls in the end, who raced away to win 28-12 at Pretoria.
Head to head, the Stormers are 4-1 against the Force. At Newlands, the Stormers are 2-0, which includes a 51-16 drubbing in 2011. The most recent match between the two (in 2012) ended in a 17-3 win to the Stormers in Perth.
The Force are fourth on the ladder, while the Stormers are sitting on the bottom at 15th.
Last week the Force equaled their previous best season in 2008 – when they won seven games – and against the Stormers they have an opportunity to tick off their season goal of eight wins and become the most victorious Force team ever. Additionally, an unbeaten tour of South Africa would further the Force’s maiden play-off aspirations.
On the other hand the Stormers’ primary concern will be getting as many wins as they can from now on, starting with the Force, and playing for pride at home.
The forward pack remains the same as last week, while Patrick Dellit comes on to the bench as outside back cover.
The Stormers has made a number of personnel changes. Peter Grant moves from inside centre to flyhalf in his 100th match for the Stormers, which has forced Damian de Allende from the right wing to inside centre, and flyhalf Kurt Coleman to the bench.
Lock Michael Rhodes and wing Kobus van Wyk return from injury, meaning Jean Kleyn makes way for the former and moves to the bench, and van Wyk moves into the 14 jersey previously occupied by De Allende. Prop Brock Harris will start this week, and prop Martin Dreyer will feature on the bench.
Hooker Deon Fourie starts this week in the place of the injured Siyabonga Ntubeni, promoting Stephan Coetzee to the bench. Despite Stormers skipper Schalk Burger being pencilled in to start, he remains ‘touch and go’ for this weekend due to a badly bruised lower back.
Duane Vermeulen will captain the Stormers if Burger is ruled out.
Key Match Ups
In the Thick of It: The Backrow
Schalk Burger and Duane Vermeulen are two experienced players, with many Springboks caps under their belt. Burger has shown in a few games since returning from injury that he is back to his barnstorming best. He has even added an offloading game to his repertoire. Vermeulen, meanwhile, has been quietly going about his business. The Stormers defensive captain and a primary ball carrier, he continues to make tackles, carries and run metres in the tight. Nizaam Carr is raw compared to the former two, but he is a quick and dynamic player.
The Force skipper Hodgson leads the competition in tackles made, with 156 in total – at an average of at least 15 a game. Ben McCalman in the first few games was in bustling form, especially with ball in hand. His workrate is still high, but he is labouring to make the same impact. The physical Angus Cottrell continues to carry and tackle hard, as well as disrupt opposition breakdowns.
The Contest for Possession: The Lineout
This season the Stormers have been hit by a huge injury toll, which has affected their lineout. But just as the Stormers lineout was finding some consistency, a huge blow was dealt with Ntubeni’s injury. Fourie is an excellent player – especially rampaging in the loose – but he struggles with his main role as a hooker: his lineout throwing.
The lineout remains an area of weakness for the Force. Although it improves with each game, there is still some confusion there without Steenkamp organising it. As well, the Force struggle to defend against the lineout drive, which was evident against the Cheetahs.
Center of Attention: Burton & Tuatara-Morrison vs. De Allende & De Jongh
A lot of threat in the Stormers backline will come from their midfielders. Damian De Allende has been a shining light in an under-performing Stormers team. The powerful utility back has played on the wing, but is primarily an inside centre. The experienced Juan de Jongh is a fleet-footed outside centre, with a deceptive step. Against a new and inexperienced Force midfield partnership, expect the Stormers to target them.
The new centre pairing of Luke Burton and Chris Tuatara-Morrison will face a baptism by fire this weekend. Perth-born Burton is a rising star in Australian rugby, who will play in the under-20s again this June. A talented inside back and accurate goal kicker, he can play at flyhalf or inside centre. Tuatara-Morrison’s selection at 13 adds ballast in the midfield to combat the likes of De Allende and De Jongh. They will need to click from the get go or they could be in for a long night.
Both teams will be up for this. Playing at Newlands will benefit the Stormers, whose position on the table is not a true reflection of their ability.
However, the form of the Force this year has been nothing short of outstanding. They will be hoping to break two records this weekend: beat the Stormers for the first time away, and become the most victorious Force side in the club’s history.
Force by 4.
Force: 1. Pek Cowan, 2. Nathan Charles, 3. Kieran Longbottom, 4. Sam Wykes, 5. Adam Coleman, 6. Angus Cottrell, 7. Matt Hodgson (c), 8. Ben McCalman, 9. Ian Prior, 10. Sias Ebersohn, 11. Nick Cummins, 12. Luke Burton, 13. Chris Tuatara-Morrison, 14. Marcel Brache, 15. Jayden Hayward.
Reserves: 16. Heath Tessmann, 17. Tetera Faulkner, 18. Ollie Hoskins, 19. Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20. Brynard Stander, 21. Justin Turner, 22. Zack Holmes, 23. Patrick Dellit.
Stormers: 1. Brok Harris, 2. Deon Fourie, 3. Pat Cilliers, 4. Michael Rhodes, 5. Ruan Botha, 6. Nizaam Carr, 7. Schalk Burger (captain), 8. Duane Vermeulen, 9. Nic Groom, 10. Peter Grant, 11. Cheslin Kolbe, 12. Damian de Allende, 13. Juan de Jongh, 14. Kobus van Wyk, 15. Jaco Taute.
Replacements: 16. Stephan Coetzee, 17. Alistair Vermaak, 18. Martin Dreyer, 19. Jean Kleyn, 20. Siya Kolisi, 21. Dylon Frylinck, 22. Kurt Coleman, 23. Michael van der Spuy.
Date: Saturday, May 17
Venue: Newlands, Cape Town
Kick-off: 17.05 (15.05 GMT; 23.05 AWST)
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Marius Jonker (South Africa), Quinton Immelman (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)