Stormers aim to halt Highlanders' start

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Thursday, March 8, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Stormers coach Robbie Fleck told The Cape Times: "The first minutes are critical because that's when the Kiwi teams tend to blow you off the park and force you to make unnecessary errors.

"That's what we've got to learn from and get better at. But I think if we can stay in there up until halftime they will be under pressure. We need to force our plan on them instead of them forcing their plan on us," he said.

While down on experience in the tight five, Fleck is still confident in the side's resources and ability to cope.

"We've produced brave performances and we're looking for another one this weekend. We are playing better, we did against the Crusaders, and we're happy with the progression so far," he said.

Coping with the Highlanders' kicking game would be another challenge for the Stormers and Fleck said they would go 'all out' under the high ball.

"The Highlanders pose a different threat and different challenges. There's other ways that we can beat them.

"They've got a very good contestable kicking game and the back three that they've got there with [Waisake] Naholo and Ben Smith are very good in the air, and Smith is right there with [Israel] Folau in terms of retaining possession there. They've probably got one of the best tactical kickers in the world in Aaron [Smith]. It's certainly something that we will be expecting," Fleck said.

Meanwhile, Highlanders captain Ben Smith said while they had the bye last week he had seen footage of the Stormers' game with the Crusaders and their usual forward power was obvious along with some exciting players in their backline.

"We've just got to match that physicality they are going to bring, we're prepared for that – that's big," he said.

"We're going to have to play smart rugby against them. A mixture of how we play will be important and obviously there'll be time to go but we've got to back our set-piece at times too.

"They've got the sort of team that they will enjoy giving it a good crack too so as I said it's probably a balance thing for us and making sure that we are playing at the right times. That's making sure we are using our set-piece well and attacking off unstructured when we can," he said.

Aspects of their defence had been worked on since their win over the Blues while also getting into position across the field to attack was another big point for them.

"We probably missed a few opportunities against the Blues and it's a good chance this Friday to put that right," he said.