Stormers

Stormers get ready for Super 14 Hurricane

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The adventurous Stormers’ ability to live with the raw power and pace of the Hurricanes at Newlands on Saturday will determine the outcome of what will be the feature clash of this weekend’s Super 14 round of matches in South Africa.


This mouth-whetting showdown will be at its fiercest on two fronts; the breakdown points as well as in the midfield.


The head-to-head contests in these two spheres will be worth the price of the admission ticket alone.


The Stormers’ fortunes at the breakdowns will be determined by the scavenging abilities of Schalk Burger, Luke Watson and Francois Louw.


Much will depend on their ability to come up trumps in this one if the Stormers are to unleash their backline, which continues to improve with every outing.


They’re up against a tried and tested All Black trio in Rodney So’oialo, Chris Masoe and Jerry Collins.


According to Stormers coach Rassie Erasmus they’ve “played together since college days” and that remark suggests these loosies are established stand-out performers.


This hard-nosed Hurricanes back row presents a formidable punishing unit that will swoop on possession that may spill from contact situations.


Collins is one of the menacing sights of modern-day rugby, the enforcer-in-chief, charging down field to initiate counter-attacks.


And if wet weather prevails, they’ll have the added responsibility to protect the Hurricanes’ possession through the phases as the intention will be to keep the ball close to their forwards.


Burger’s armoury as a predator has increased as he adjusts his game to the new law variations which makes a bigger target than ever for opposition sides.


Watson’s play has been flourishing whenever the Stormers’ tight five have been solid, and he’s produced a few tearaway runs that both fellow forwards and backs have been able to feed off.


Louw remains a solid grafter and his steadily improving work rate has given his fellow loosies more opportunities to charge the advantage line.


The Hurricanes’ decision to move wing Ma’a Nonu to centre against the Bulls last week proved to be a masterstroke and his midfield presence has an ominous ring about it.


Some time ago All Black coach Graham Henry described this potent line-breaker as a “young Tana”, referring to the fearsome All Black midfield stalwart Tana Umaga.


“Nonu’s move to centre makes him even more dangerous,” said Erasmus.


“He’ll be closer to the action, closer to broken play and when one considers that there are quite a few line-breakers around him, our defence will be severely tested. “But we’ll be up for it.”


Nonu’s midfield presence should also allow the national selectors to gauge just how close Stormers centre Jean de Villiers is back to his best form.


De Villiers has been at the helm of the Stormers’ resurgence, which has made the Capetonians strong favourites to reach the play-off round.


Saturday’s clash will also afford De Villiers’ midfield partner Gcobani Bobo a chance to consolidate their combination.


Often Bobo’s contribution is overlooked which caused the future Springbok assistant coach Gary Gold to remark recently that “he (Bobo) is of incalculable value to us (the Stormers).


“He may not do things as spectacularly as Jean de Villiers and Tonderai Chavhanga do but he is a hard worker”.


His good footwork often enables us to attack the gain line”.


And then the appointment of controversial Australian referee James Leckie has also been a subject of much debate in the run-up to Saturday’s Newlands clash.


“I’ve had him ref some games when I was at the Cheetahs last year, and I’m not expecting any problems with Leckie on Saturday”.


Well, one can only assume that Erasmus did not see the whistle man’s most recent displays when he dished up a host of questionable decisions.


The expected capacity Newlands crowd will be hoping that Leckie doesn’t come up with any more howlers that could directly determine the eventual outcome of the match.


Sapa – Super14.com

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