PREVIEW: Highlanders v Stormers
Thursday, April 27, 2017 allblacks.com Getty Images
The two teams enter this clash with contrasting form. The Highlanders started the season with three losses from their first four matches, but have bounced back to win four in a row. The Stormers flew out of the blocks in 2017 with six straight wins but have lost their last two matches to the Lions and Crusaders. Travel fatigue may have been a factor against the Crusaders last week, but the Stormers will be fully acclimatised to the New Zealand now and looking forward getting down to work under the roof at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
With regular pivot Lima Sopoaga still unavailable due to a hamstring injury, Marty Banks has done a superb job guiding the backline in his absence. The Tasman playmaker has laid the foundation for the Highlanders revival with a well-honed tactical kicking and attacking game. From the tee, Banks boasts the best goal kicking percentage in the competition with 25 successful shots out of 26. The loss of Sopoaga could have proved devastating for the Highlanders, but Banks has slotted in seamlessly.
After playing against former Highlanders fan favourite Fumiaki Tanaka last week, the Highlanders are set to play against another favourite son this week in Shaun Treeby. The powerful mid-fielder racked up 50 caps for the Highlanders from 2011-2015 but has now found himself in the Stormers squad. The 2015 Super Rugby winner has been named on the bench for the Stormers but coach Robbie Fleck confirmed he would likely get on the field to make his Stormers debut.
In SP Marais, Cheslin Kolbe and Dillyn Leyds, the Stormers boast one of the most exciting back three combinations in the competition. Leyds showed his skill with an on the ground reverse flick pass to help sink the Chiefs in round seven while Kolbe is one of the fastest players in Super Rugby. Fullback SP Marais is perhaps the most dangerous of the three with his slick running complimented by an impressive offloading game. The Highlanders answer back with a world class trio of their own in All Blacks Ben Smith and Waisake Naholo and Fijian international Patrick Osborne.
Is this the offload of the season?#STOvCHI pic.twitter.com/RaPXE8Qmfx— Super Rugby (@SuperRugbyNZ) April 8, 2017FAST FACT
The Highlanders have only won one out of their last seven clashes with the Stormers.
Highlanders: Ben Smith (c), Waisake Naholo, Malakai Fekitoa, Rob Thompson, Patrick Osborne, Marty Banks, Aaron Smith, Liam Squire, Dillon Hunt, Gareth Evans, Tom Franklin, Alex Ainley, Siosuia Halanukonuka, Liam Coltman, Daniel Lienert-Brown. Reserves: Greg Pleasants-Tate, Aki Seiuli, Siate Tokolahi, Joe Wheeler, Jackson Hemopo, Kayne Hammington, Fletcher Smith, Matt Faddes.
Reserves: Ramone Samuels, JC Janse van Rensburg, Wilco Louw, Kobus van Dyk, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Dewaldt Duvenage, Shaun Treeby, Bjorn Basson
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