Preview: Stormers v Blues

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Thursday, March 15, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Match details: Stormers v Blues, DHL Newlands, March 18 (NZT), 2am

Played: 19
Won: Stormers 9, Blues 10
Last time: Stormers 30-22 Blues, May 19, 2017 at Newlands

The Stormers have limped home from their three-game tour of Australasia with three losses after their first up win at home. They have a long injury list and further frustrations from a 'flu outbreak in the team. The Blues after two losses, surprised the highly-rated Lions last week in Johannesburg with a last-minute win. The Blues have made an average gain of 542m per game this season, that is nearly 30m per game more than any other squad. They made 938m against 547m by the Lions last week and the home team had to make 177 tackles to only 86 by the Blues. The Lions missed 32 tackles and the Blues 12. The Stormers are wanting to take the Blues on in the running game but they need to be wary as the Blues made 208 passed to 110 by the Lions, all of which points to a significant reason whey the Blues won.

Stormers first five-eighths Damian Willemse gave a hint of his potential with a dazzling performance against the Highlanders. A tall player, he is fast on the break and not afraid to get into the defensive action. He shapes as a key player for the Stormers not only on Sunday but also in the future. Former Springbok coach Nick Mallett said on Supersport, "Willemse scored a great try by showing a great turn of pace, and I thought he played very well in this game. His defence was outstanding, he really did tackle well and we know about his attacking ability and sidestepping." He will be a key figure for the side against the Blues.

Stormers coach Robbie Fleck is uncertain, even after naming his side, who will actually make it onto the field. He said the 'flu bug which has struck the side could see late changes to the matchday squad. In the team named Dillyn Leyds will play fullback after injury to SP Marais with JJ Engelbrecht on the wing. Craig Barry has been called back from loan to the Cheetahs as wing cover while Pieter-Steph du Toit has returned to the blindside of the scrum. Cobus Wiese will be on the bench.

The Blues stayed a few extra days at altitude in Johannesburg, only heading south on Wednesday. That should be an interesting aspect of their performance to see if it affects their stamina for the better. As Mallett observed, in the last 20 minutes it was usual for the home team at altitude to finish stronger, but the reverse had happened with the Blues coming through. That extra time on the veldt may prove significant against a Stormers side who have to cope with all the travel to get back home from New Zealand.

The Stormers have won five of their last six games against the Blues, and their loss was by one point. They have also won nine of their last 10 regular season home games. (Opta)

1.Steven Kitshoff, 2.Ramone Samuels, 3.Wilco Louw, 4.Jan de Klerk, 5.Chris van Zyl, 6.Siya Kolisi (captain), 7.Pieter-Steph du Toit, 8.Nizaam Carr, 9.Dewaldt Duvenage, 10.Damian Willemse, 11.Raymond Rhule, 12.Damian de Allende, 13.EW Viljoen, 14.JJ Engelbrecht, 15.Dillyn Leyds

Substitutes: 16.Dean Muir, 17.JC Janse van Rensburg, 18.Carlu Sadie, 19.Salmaan Moerat, 20.Cobus Wiese, 21.Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 22.Justin Phillips, 23.Craig Barry.

Blues: 1.Pauliasi Manu, 2.James Parsons (captain), 3.Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 4.Patrick Tuipulotu, 5.Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 6.Jerome Kaino, 7.Antonio Kiri Kiri, 8.Akira Ioane, 9.Sam Nock, 10.Bryn Gatland.11.Melani Nanai, 12.Sonny Bill Williams. 13.Rieko Ioane, 14.Matt Duffie, 15.Michael Collins.

Substitutes: 16.Leni Apisai, 17.Ross Wright or Sione Mafileo, 18.Michael Tamoaieta, 19.Jimmy Tupou, 20.Murphy Taramai, 21.Jonathan Ruru, 22.Stephen Perofeta, 23.George Moala.