Preview: Stormers v Chiefs

Fri, 22 Jul 2016 08:23
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SUPER RUGBY QUARTERFINALS: Stormers head coach Robbie Fleck says the Chiefs have no weaknesses, despite the Waikato team's long injury list ahead of the play-offs.

The two teams will do battle at Newlands on Saturday with the winners moving onto the semifinals a week later.

It will be the Stormers first match against New Zealand opposition this year and although the Chiefs are missing players like Pauliasi Manu, Michael Leitch, Charlie Ngatai, Seta Tamanivalu, Andrew Horrell and Augustine Pulu, it will still be a tough ask for the Cape side to beat them. 

"There is no area of weakness in any Chiefs side," said Fleck.

"They are a good side and we certainly don't target any weak area even if their players are injured. 

"We just want to concentrate on what we got. We also got our fair share of injuries - we are missing a few backline players ourselves. We will just concentrate on what we are good at and what we have to do on the weekend."

Many feel the Stormers will use their powerful forward pack to try an establish a platform for victory on Saturday. However, Stormers co-captain Schalk Burger believes the Chiefs are just as strong upfront.

"A lot has been said about our pack, but they got a good pack," said Burger.

"On the day, whoever plays with the right intensity and whoever is in the right frame of mind, they can put pressure on the other. That is what determines these games."

Meanwhile, Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie hinted that will not be changing their expansive game plan for a more conservative approach in the play-offs.

"We'll be pretty positive, play what's in front of us," Rennie told stuff.co.nz. "It doesn't mean we won't be kicking, but we want to get a real good balance to our game.

"We've prepared well, we know we're going to have to defend really well, they carry strong, they latch on and force you to make a lot of tackles. So it's going to be a pretty abrasive game I think.

"We've talked a lot about understanding that you lift in intensity when you go into play-off footy."

Rennie is also expecting a lot of support for his at Newlands.

"I think all the Kiwi sides enjoy a lot of support over here," Rennie said. "When we turn up at the ground, the street will be lined with Chiefs supporters with their flags and people wearing jerseys. I know when we've played here and we've scored, it feels like a home game."

Players to watch:

For the Stormers: Springboks Pieter-Steph du Toit and Eben Etzebeth are two of the world's best locks at the moment and they will be key in set piece battle against the Chiefs. Flyhalf Robert du Preez has not played a Super Rugby game since March and it will be interesting to see how he goes against a quality side like the Chiefs. In the midfield, Huw Jones is showing a lot of promise on attack and he could be the spark in the Stormers' side on Saturday.

For the Chiefs: Fullback Damian McKenzie has bags of talent and he will give the Stormers plenty of problems if he is given space. Flyhalf Aaron Cruden is a good decision maker and he control the game if he is given too much time with ball. In the pack, Brodie Retallick is one of the best in the business in line-out play and he is a monster with ball in hand as well. Keep an eye out for Sam Cane as well. The flank will be looking to give the Stormers a hard time at the breakdowns.

Head to head: The breakdown battle will be an intriguing one. The Stormers do not have a traditional openside flank in their back row and will be relying on the collective to make an impact at the breakdowns. On the opposite side the Chiefs have Sam Cane, who is one of the best in that areas of the game. There will also be a spotlight on the two second rows. There is plenty of talent between Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Brodie Retallick and Tom Sanders. In backline play, Stephen Donald and Damian de Allende are two totally different players in that inside centre channel and it would be interesting to see the difference in approach on attack.

Prediction: The Chiefs have won seven of their last 11 games against the Stormers, including wins in each of their last two and a come-from-behind win in the most recent such fixture. The Stormers have won only one of their seven finals games including none of the last four. They've managed to score 20+ points in a finals match only once. After winning eight of their first nine games this season the Chiefs have now won only three of their last six Super Rugby games, though they've won nine and drawn two of their last 13 games against South African opposition. The Stormers have relied on penalty kicks more than any other team in Super Rugby 2016 slotting 2.6 per game so far, the most of any team and 1.1 per game more than the Chiefs. No player has beaten more defenders than Damian McKenzie and the Chiefs’ fullback is just seven carries shy of becoming the second player to make 200 carries this season. He is also one of just two players to play every minute of the campaign (Raymond Rhule – Cheetahs). This will be tight. The Chiefs have been playing brilliant rugby this season, but the Stormers are at home and they have been building a bit of momentum over the last few weeks. The Stormers will win by five points.

@rugby365com

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