Preview: Cheetahs v Stormers

Date published: March 4 2016

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The Stormers will be looking to build on their Round One form and secure their first win in Bloemfontein since 2012 against a young Cheetahs side on Saturday.

The Stormers have won 10 of their last 13 encounters with the Cheetahs but travelling to the Free State has not gone well in recent years. They will hope for better this time against a Cheetahs side that has lost their last four Super Rugby matches at home against other opposition. 

The Stormers were the most successful tacklers in round one, with a success rate of 96 percent, while the Cheetahs boast the top two metre-makers after Round One, with centre Francois Venter and wing Raymond Rhule both making 141 metres.

The Cheetahs have had poor defence over last few seasons and although their scrummaging showed improvement against the Jaguares, the will have to perform continuously if they want a chance at the set-piece.

The Stormers were devastating against the Bulls and manhandled their counterparts up front, with the second-row pairing of Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit living up to the pre-match billing, menacing the opposition at the line-outs, while the front row featuring Scarra Ntubeni and Frans Malherbe made scrum-time an arduous experience for the Bulls.

The Cheetahs will have to get numbers at the breakdowns if they want to avoid a complete mismatch on the ground, with the experience of Schalk Burger making the contest even tougher.

Cheetahs wing Raymond Rhule said that the hosts expect a big effort from the Stormers, but that the result will depend on the performance on the day.

“We’ve been working hard to develop an effective all-round game, including an exciting attack paired with a strong defence," he said. 

“The Stormers are a very good side. They will be very confident after their win over the Bulls and we expect them to come out firing.

“But like in any South African derby, it’s all about who performs better on the day. We will need to deliver an improved and complete performance this weekend. 

Fleck, though happy with the workmanship of his charges against the Bulls, said that they can still do better and was excited about the flying prospect Leolin Zas.

“It was encouraging that we finished so strong against the Bulls, but there are still plenty of areas in which we can improve, so we want to take another step forward in Bloemfontein," said Fleck.

“We are not underestimating any team in this competition, but like I’ve said previously, we want to play better every week. That doesn’t just count against the Stormers, but for every game.

“There is no doubt that he (Zas) has incredible potential, and we would like to back talented young players as much as possible."

The last time these teams met: The two sides met in round 16 of last year's competition and the Stormers ran in five tries to the visitors' two at Newlands. The hosts were clinical in their execution and defensively strong to annihilate the Cheetahs 42-12, and dominated the set-pieces and contact situations, while the boot of fly-half Demetri Catrakilis kept the scoreboard ticking. Allister Coetzee's side enjoyed majority territory and possession, and the Cheetahs scored both their tries off driving mauls, probably the only consolation Naka Drotske's troops took back to Bloemfontein.

Players to watch: Speedster Leolin Zas proved to be a lethal finisher during his U20 World Cup and Currie Cup performances and will add gas to an already-pacey backline. Fly-half Robert du Preez's boot will also be the focal point for many after he scored 23 points in his Super Rugby debut last week.

South Africa's 2015 Player of the Year Lood de Jager will be a major asset to the Cheetahs, while gainline assasin Francois Venter will boost the Cheetahs arsenal in midfield with his physicality.

Team news: Franco Smith has made one change to his strarting XV, with Boom Prinsloo moving down to the bench and Paul Schoeman filling in at flank.The 23-year-old Kings recruit joined the Cheetahs ahead of the 2016 season and will make his starting debut for the side. Loose forward Francois Uys has been included on the bench, with Reniel Hugo dropping out of the matchday squad.

Robbie Fleck also made only one change, with 20-year-old Leolin Zas starting at left wing in the absence of Kobus van Wyk.

Form: The Stormers ran in five tries to none against the Bulls to secure a 33-9 opening round victory, while the Jaguares bagged a historic comeback-win to edge out the Cheetahs 34-33 in Bloemfontein.

Predictions: It's rare to accurately predict how the Cheetahs will perform, but the Stormers' form is unmistakable. The Cheetahs like to spread the ball, but the visitors have backline depth to match the Cheetahs' attacking and big forwards to get the job done up front. The Stormers also hold the set-piece edge, and will excel if they employ their defensive skill. Stormers by 15.

Previous results:

2015: Stormers won 42- 12 in Cape Town    
2015: Cheetahs won 25-17 in Bloemfontein    
2014: Stormers won 33-0 in Cape Town    
2014: Cheetahs won 35-22 in Bloemfontein    
2013: Stormers won 28-3 in Cape Town    
2013: Cheetahs won 26-24 in Bloemfontein    
2012: Stormers won 6-13 in Bloemfontein
2012: Stormers won 14-16 in Cape Town

The teams:

Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (c), 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Charles Marais
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Luan de Bruin, 19 Francois Uys, 20 Boom Prinsloo, 21 Henco Venter, 22 Tian Meyer, 23 Niel Marais 

Stormers: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Juan de Jongh (cc), 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Oli Kebble
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Frans Malherbe (co-captain), 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Huw Jones

Date: Saturday, March 5
Venue: Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein
Kick-off:17:10  local ( 15:10 GMT)
Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistant referees: Rodney Bonaparte, AJ Jacobs
TMO: Willie Vos

 

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