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PLAYOFF PREVIEW: Stormers v Chiefs

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Friday, July 22, 2016    allblacks.com    Getty Images

Game details: Stormers v Chiefs, 5am, Sunday 24 July (NZT), Cape Town

TALE OF THE TAPE
It’s a step into the unknown for the Stormers with this match marking the first time they have faced a New Zealand team this season. The Cape Town-based side had a mixed start to the season but have finished strong with four straight wins leading into the playoffs. The Chiefs on the other hand have won just three of their last six matches to finish third in the New Zealand conference.

QUICK TAP: RENNIE CONFIDENT CHIEFS CAN CLAIM WIN

BEAVER TO 12
The Chiefs have incurred a horror injury count this year but no position as been worse it than the midfield. With Charlie Ngatai, Andrew Horrell and Seta Tamanivalu all felled by injury, the Chiefs have called on veteran Stephen Donald at second five-eighth for just his second start of the season. Coach Dave Rennie says he has confidence that Donald can complement first-five eighth Aaron Cruden in the crunch clash."He's prepared really well. We've got a lot of confidence in Beaver, and while he hasn't had a big history of playing 12, we're confident he can do the job,” Rennie said.

LOCKING HORNS
After missing last week’s six try win over the Sunwolves, Springbok locks Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit return to bolster the Stormers back. Both players are not just noted lineout exponents but mobile around the park and strong with ball in hand. The Chiefs bring a classy locking combination to take on the Stormers pair. Brodie Retallick and Dominic Bird have combined well in their first season together at Super Rugby level and will relish the opportunity to mix it with South Africa’s best.

DEPENDABLE DAMIAN
When scrolling the leading Super Rugby statistics for the season, not many names feature more than Chiefs fullback Damian McKenzie. With ball in hand, McKenzie has beaten the most defenders (62), is second on the list for both clean breaks (27) and carries (193) and is third for most metres made (1190). But the impressive stats don’t stop there. McKenzie is fourth on the point scoring ladder with 165 points and is one of just two players to have played every minute of the season. He comes up against a seasoned campaigner this week in Jaco Taute. The 25-year-old Taute is noted for his incisive running and will be hoping to match McKenzie’s attacking spark with his own direct running game.

QUICK TAP: WHO IS LEADING THE SUPER RUGBY STATS?

TEAMS
Chiefs: 15: Damian McKenzie 14: Sam McNicol 13: Anton Lienert-Brown 12: Stephen Donald 11: James Lowe 10: Aaron Cruden 9: Brad Weber 8: Tom Sanders 7: Sam Cane 6: Taleni Seu 5: Brodie Retallick 4: Dominic Bird 3: Atu Moli 2: Nathan Harris 1: Kane Hames
Reserves: 16: Hika Elliot 17: Siegfried Fisi’ihoi 18: Mitchell Graham 19: Tevita Koloamatangi 20: Lachlan Boshier 21: Tawera Kerr Barlow 22: Toni Pulu 23: Shaun Stevenson

Stormers: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Schalk Burger (co-captain), 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Ezebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Alistair Vermaak. 
Reserves: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Frans Malherbe (co-captain), 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Nizaam Carr, 22 Louis Schreuder, 23 Brandon Thomson