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Preview: Stormers v Crusaders

Fotopress

Friday, April 28, 2006    Sportal.co.nz    Fotopress

VENUE & TIME: Newlands, Cape Town, Sunday April 30, 05:10 NZT.

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 10 - Crusaders 7, Stormers 2, Draws 1

LAST TIME: April 16, 2005 (Cape Town) Crusaders 51 Stormers 23.

WALKING WOUNDED: Crusaders lock Ross Filipo has returned home after suffering a groin strain against the Western. Deans has opted to rest star loose forward Richie McCaw for the Cape Town clash with the Stormers, while putting star first five-eighths Dan Carter and fullback Leon MacDonald on the bench. Halfback Neil de Kock's shoulder injury appears to be the predominant concern for the Stormers ahead of this home fixture. De Kock's injury has taken longer to heal than originally expected and Joe Pietersen comes into the starting line-up as his replacement for the second consecutive week.

FORM: Interestingly, the Stormers appear in better form than the competition frontrunners. The South Africans ended their Australasian tour in emphatic style with a 24-20 victory over the Reds. However, the Stormers continue to struggle and are 11th on the table. The Crusaders, despite a nail-biting draw with the Western Force remain unbeaten but performances in recent weeks have left a lot of room for improvement.

WHO'S HOT: Star wing Rico Gear has also looked ominously dangerous in his side's recent outings and could proved more than a handful for the struggling Stormers defence on Sunday morning. Springbok and Stormers No 8, Joe van Niekerk, has been in powerful form for the South African franchise. The barnstorming forward scored the Stormers' first try in last week's Queensland thriller and his defence has been more than sturdy.

WE THINK: The Crusaders will not let two matches in a row almost slip from their grasp. Spare a thought for the Stormers who are likely to be on the receiving end of a Crusaders outfit desperate to prove that last week's draw with the Western Force was a one-off event. Despite the Crusaders surprising nearly everyone last week, we think they will win this one by at least 20 points.

TEAMS:

Stormers: 1 - JD Moller, 2 - Schalk Brits, 3 - Eddie Andrews, 4 - Ross Skeate, 5 - Andries Bekker, 6 - Luke Watson, 7 - Schalk Burger, 8 - Joe van Niekerk, 9 - Neil de Kock, 10 - Peter Grant, 11 - Jean De Villiers 12 - De Wet Barry (Captain), 13 - Marius Joubert, 14 - Rayno Benjamin, 15 - Johan Pietersen.

Reserves: 16 - Hanyani Shimange, 17 - Neil Fullard, 18 -Gerrie Britz, 19 - Adri Badenhorst, 20 - Bolla Conradie, 21 - Naas Olivier, 22 - Chumani Booi.

Crusaders: 1 - Greg Somerville, 2 - Corey Flynn, 3 - Campbell Johnstone, 4 - Chris Jack, 5 - Brad Mika, 6 - Reuben Thorne (Captain), 7 - Johnny Leo'o, 8 - Mose Tuiali'i, 9 - Kevin Senio, 10 - Cameron McIntyre, 11 - Caleb Ralph, 12 - Aaron Mauger, 13 - Casey Laulala, 14 - Rico Gear, 15 - Scott Hamilton.

Reserves: 16 - Tone Kopelani, 17 - Wyatt Crockett, 18 - Craig Clarke, 19 - Tanerau Latimer, 20 Andrew Ellis, 21 - Daniel Carter, 22 - Leon MacDonald.

Referee: James Leckie