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PREVIEW: Stormers v Blues

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Thursday, May 18, 2017    allblacks.com    Getty Images

ROUND 13: Stormers v Blues, Saturday 20 May 5am (NZT), Cape Town, South Africa

FORM
The Blues come into this contest with form on their side with three straight victories over the Brumbies, Waratahs and Cheetahs. The Stormers are the exact opposite with four straight losses, including a 41-21 loss to the Hurricanes in their last match. The Cape Town-based side started the season with six straight wins and will be looking to replicate that form against a Blues side that has struggled with the travel to South Africa over recent seasons.

QUICK TAP: BLUES READY FOR ONSLAUGHT FROM STORMERS

STRENGTHEND STORMERS
After a tough road trip to New Zealand, the Stormers will see light at the end of the tunnel with the return of a number of key players to their squad. In the second row, Springboks locks Eben Etzebeth and Pieter Steph du Toit will add some steel and lineout precision to the pack. In the backs, sevens speed merchant Seabelo Senatla takes his place on the left wing while powerful Sprinboks midfielder Damian de Allende returns to the bench from an ankle injury.
DESPERATE BLUES
The Blues have been in must-win territory for a number of weeks now, and it doesn’t change in Cape Town. With five points separating the Blues and the fourth placed Highlanders in the NZ Conference, a loss in Cape Town could be the hammer blow to their playoff hopes. Assistant coach Alister Rogers said his side understands the importance of the Cape Town clash: "For us it's about continued improvement. We feel we've had that over the last couple of weeks and that's what we're seeking. That's something we live by and we're looking to go up a gear this week."

SEVENS RIVALS
The Stormers boast two of the quickest players in Super Rugby in their wing pairing of Cheslin Kolbe and Seabelo Senatla. The Blues answer back with two of the most destructive players in the competition in Rieko and Akira Ioane. Last year the four dynamic stars were battling on the World Series Sevens Series circuit. Although it is a different stage this year, expect just as much excitement from four genuine x-factor players.

FAST FACT
Opposition teams beat an average of just 15.6 defenders per game when facing the Blues, the lowest against any team in the competition.

TEAMS
Stormers
15 SP Marais, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Dillyn Leyds, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Siya Kolisi (captain), 6 Kobus van Dyk, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth (vice-captain), 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Oli Kebble.
Substitutes: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Brandon Thomson, 23 Damian de Allende

Blues
15 Melani Nanai, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 George Moala, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons (captain), 1 Ofa Tu'ungafasi
Substitutes: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Kara Pryor, 21. Sam Nock 22: Bryn Gatland 23: Michael Collins