Preview: Stormers v Chiefs

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Saturday, March 14, 2015    James Mortimer    Getty Images

Sunday 15 March at 2.00am (NZDT)
Newlands Stadium, Cape Town

Played: 16, 1998-2014 (DNP 2012)
Stormers wins: 9
Chiefs wins: 7

Stormers points: 415
Chiefs points: 412

Last match: Chiefs 36 Stormers 20, 14.03.14 in Hamilton

Squad update: Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has made four changes to his starting team, continuing the theme of player management from the Western Province based side, who have further players available.

Up front there is just one alteration, with Springboks lock Eben Etzebeth rested, part of the agreement between the teams from the Republic and national management – meaning Jean Kleyn, who played off the bench in last week’s win against the Sharks – gets a start.

Out wide there is double change in the playing axis with Louis Schreuder and Kurt Coleman starting at nine and ten respectively, replacing Nic Groom and Demetri Catrakilis.

At right wing Kobus van Wyk is back after being cleared to play, resulting in Johnny Kotze dropping out of the side, giving the back time to rest an AC injury.

Touring coach Dave Rennie has made six change to his team.

Japanese Test captain Michael Leitch gets his first start for the franchise in 2015, taking his place alongside Liam Messam and Sam Cane in a blue chip back row.

In the backline, Brad Webber, Tim Nanai-Williams, Bryce Heem and Damian McKenzie come into the side, resulting in changes at 9, 13, 14 and 15.

Heem and McKenzie join red hot winger James Lowe in the back three, while Nanai-Williams partners with Sonny Bill Williams in a dangerous looking centre combination.

Form: The Stormers are unbeaten although in typical Cape Town fashion this is being greeted cautiously, aware the side is still to leave the Republic.

Yet valuable away wins in Pretoria and Johannesburg show the mettle of the team, although with respect to Sir John Kirwan’s men the Chiefs will present far more formidable opposition than the Blues who lost at Newlands 27-16 in round two.

The Stormers fabled defence is in rude health, conceding just four tries in the same number of fixtures, although they would like to sharpen their attacking blade, their seven tries is ranked equal eighth overall – although they have no problem scoring points via the boot.

The two-time champion Chiefs were brought crashing down to their beloved Waikato Stadium turf with a thud last week as a resilient Highlanders team make a mockery of statistics to run out 20-17 winners.

It broke a run of three straight successes to kick start the Chiefs season, and they will be keen to keep the pressure on the Hurricanes at the summit of the table while emulating their Wellington based rivals by registering a victory in the Republic.

While Rennie and his coaching team might not be thrilled at the loss last week, the squad is looking sharp, their attack is up there and their defence by tries let in is the equal of their opponents.

Key players: It is remarkable to think that Springboks captain Jean de Villiers is missing, the tidiness of the Stormers backline has been impressive although they are not crossing the whitewash regularly – although this is in part to a pragmatic style.

Kurt Coleman brings added sparkle to the backline, while Damian de Allende, many believe a long term international, needs to get his combination spot on with Juan de Jongh if they are to withstand the Chiefs rear arsenal.

Big prop Steven Kitshoff plays his 50th match while a very potent bench will likely introduce Schalk Burger into proceedings later in the match.

The numerous changes to the visitor’s back division will slightly increase the pressure on Aaron Cruden, whose running game has looked in typical touch, but his boot is not ranked amongst the better kickers in Super Rugby.

Sonny Bill has quickly re-established himself as one of the tournament’s marquee threats, something the Stormers have not shied away from talking about in the lead up to this match.

However with the home pack preferring to take control of the game where possible, the touring forwards will want to duplicate the impressive aggression that bullied the Crusaders out of the game earlier in the season.

Cane’s form alongside the complimentary Messam will have the back row believing they might had the odds, but the Chiefs tight five will be up against it.

A hardworking group will be buttressed by Ben Tameifuna and Hika Elliot – who will need big games to counter the Stormers scrum - while Jamie Mackintosh will likely be required off the bench at some point as will Michael Allardice.