Preview: Stormers v Highlanders
Saturday, May 3, 2014 James Mortimer Getty Images
Head to Head: Played 16, Stormers 7, Highlanders 8, Drawn 1
Last time: Highlanders 6-21 Stormers (April 7, 2012)
Walking wounded: With the sizeable exception of Brad Thorn, coach Jamie Joseph will be thrilled that the usual horror injury toll that has struck the Highlanders in recent years hasn’t surfaced in 2014. While Patrick Osborne and Craig Millar returned to New Zealand with injuries, the spine of the team will run out at Cape Town.
The Stormers along with the Chiefs have a mammoth injury toll, the men from Cape Town are without a dozen players, including arguably their best player in Eben Etzebeth. Schalk Burger’s presence will be a plus, but the absence of nearly a pack of forwards is hurting the side.
Form: The Highlanders though are in good touch, confirming their status as a challenger with a rousing victory in Durban last week, their fourth win in their last five games. With patchy road form of late, the men from the Deep South will be looking for their third win in six matches on the road.
With just one win in their last seven the Stormers were officially out of final’s contention a couple of weeks ago. Their past will be some small comfort, the Highlanders haven’t won at Newlands since 2006, and are without a win against these rivals since 2007.
Key players: Chris King will bring up his 100th game for the Highlanders, and the hard tackling prop exemplifies the Southerners efforts so far this year. A serious pack despite no All Blacks is laying the platform, but out wide the likes of Lima Sopoaga and Malakai Fekitoa are impressing, with some calling for them to be elevated to higher honours.
For the Stormers Burger will be his usual blonde menace, but the calm experience of Jean de Villiers will be crucial, while Kurt Coleman has been tasked with running an attack that has only scored 15 tries in nine matches so far this year.
Stormers: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Damian de Allende, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (capt), 11 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Michael Rhodes, 4 Ruan Botha, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Oliver Kebble, 18 Brok Harris, 19 Jurie van Vuuren, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Peter Grant, 23 Kobus van Wyk.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Trent Renata, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Mani, 7 John Hardie, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Joe Wheeler, 3 Chris King, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Brayden Mitchell, 17 Matias Diaz, 18 Ma'afu Fia, 19 Jarrad Hoeata, 20 Shane Christie, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Jason Emery, 23 Phil Burleigh.
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