Chiefs expecting a tougher response from Stormers

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

The Stormers underwent a rigorous review of their shortcomings last year and developed a more attacking style of play and while hit hard during their New Zealand tour when thrashed by the Crusaders, Highlanders and Hurricanes, they had recovered in the latter rounds to dominate their Conference.

But under the vagaries of the Investec Super Rugby draw the Chiefs found themselves placed sixth and having to travel in spite of having lost only two games this season.

The Chiefs faced a big day of travel, leaving Hamilton at 2am on Sunday (NZT) and arriving in Cape Town at midnight (SAT). The early part of the week had been spent trying to get players in synch with the time zone they were now in.

Samoan international Tim Nanai-Williams arrived in South Africa a day after the team and he would be managed during the week. However, the ankle injury suffered by second five-eighths Charlie Ngatai meant he had been left at home as they couldn't afford to take the risk with only 25 players allowed to travel.

Lock Dominic Bird had been cleared after a head knock and he was eligible for selection.

The side's returning All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick, flanker Sam Cane and centre Anton Lienert-Brown were showing the benefits of not having played last weekend and that was encouraging for the side, Rennie said.

At the back of the management team's minds was the demands that could be made on the team if they win in Cape Town and have to return to New Zealand for a semi-final. In the six years he has coached the side, Rennie said they had made the return trip seven times and the only loss had been in last year's semi-final.

As a result of that loss they had looked at everything they did because they went from being sublime in the quarter final to battling with their skill sets in the semi final.

They were determined to get the little things right in order to be at their best.

Rennie said last year's quarter final rout of the Stormers by the Chiefs who put 60 points on the South Africans had resulted from a surprise in the intensity the Chiefs brought. They hadn't played a New Zealand team all year.

But this year they have played five New Zealand teams, including the Chiefs in Cape Town and they had been far better prepared, a lot fitter and fronted 'big-time' to beat the Chiefs, he said.

"We're pretty sure what we're going to face. They'll be physical and they'll back themselves. They've beaten us already this year and they'll take confidence from that," he said.

While the Stormers have played more attacking rugby this season, they were still very keen on territory.

"What we know is they attacked us around the fringes last time and like all African sides they will drive well and we'll certainly have to bar up in those areas. I don't think they'll want to kick the ball too much to us, certainly when it's not contestable so I guess we've got to try and put them under pressure to force them to kick it when they don't want to," he said.

Rennie said they had a plan around nullifying the Stormers' driving maul at lineouts and if it was executed accurately it would be effective, but it was going to be a challenge.