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Stormers to carry SA’s hopes

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In one of the five Super 14 matches to be played on Saturday, the Stormers will carry most of South Africa’s support at Newlands in their derby against the Cheetahs with the friendly adversity between the two coaches an interesting side show.


The support for the Stormers stems from the fact that, with the Sharks, they’re the only remaining South African side that can still conceivably make the semifinals.


There will also be plenty of sentimental support for the Cheetahs who have come within seven points of their opponents on five occasions, but the reality is the Free State franchise has only a miniscule mathematical chance of reaching the play-offs.


Rassie Erasmus, regarded as the man who put Free State and Cheetahs rugby back on the map, is now in the opposition fold. Shrewd – sometimes bordering on gamesmanship – he will know what his old teammate Naka Drotske thinks and plans.


Erasmus also knows the players and their weaknesses. But to the two former teammates, this is just another match.


Their friendship and the fact that they coached together will not come into this, Drotske insisted.


One of the highlights will be the clash between the two sets of loose forwards.


The Cheetahs have captain Juan Smith back. Duanne Vermeulen has been outstanding this season and Heinrich Brussow is the type of player who is seldom noticed, but who’ll relish the opportunity to measure himself against Schalk Burger.


“We have to compete for 80 minutes, and I’m confident Heinrich (Brussow) and Hendro Scholtz when he comes on in the second half, will create problems for the Stormers,” Drotske said.


He also stressed the Cheetahs will have to stick to their structures -especially on defence.


* The Lions, with seven changes from the side that lost to the Highlanders last weekend, seem to be in for a drubbing against the unbeaten log-leaders Crusaders.


The home side have also made a number of changes, and that could to some extent alleviate the problems facing the Lions.


Of importance to coach Eugene Eloff will be the approach of the Lions to the match and the way they stick to their structures – one of his main frustrations to date.


* In the other match featuring a South African side, the Bulls meet up with a Hurricanes side upset by their cruel denial of a win by referee Paul marks in the match against the Sharks last weekend.


The Hurricanes are a tough team side – good on the drive, with lots of pace and skill at the back and masterful at the turnover. It will take a super effort from the Bulls, who have not won since March 7, to turn the tide.


Coach Frans Ludeke is confident they have at last mastered the ELVs, but it will be concentration and more commitment that will see them through as much as clinical finishing.


* The Blues are at home to the Brumbies. Both lost their matches last weekend, the Blues by the huge margin of 37-16 against the Waratahs, and the Brumbies, who played at home, to the Chiefs (42-28).


They both need a win to keep up their challenge. The Blues, currently third, cannot afford a loss, while the Brumbies will be all but out of it should they lose.


* In Perth the fifth-placed Western Force, blowing hot and cold, are on a high after beating the Bulls 15-14 last weekend.


They’re up against the Waratahs, one place lower on the log, in an Aussie derby that will see the loser move down on the log where a number of sides are bunched between second and eighth place with just six log points separating them.


The Force, with better playmakers and a home crown behind them, should take this one.


Fixtures: Friday (SA times):


Highlanders v Sharks, Dunedin, 9.35am Saturday:
Crusaders v Lions, Christchurch, 7.30am;
Blues v Brumbies, Auckland, 9.35am;
Force v Waratahs, Perth, 1.05pm;
Stormers v Cheetahs, Cape Town, 3pm;
Bulls v Hurricanes, Pretoria, 5.05pm

 

SAPA – Super14.com

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