Preview: Stormers v Blues

Date published: February 20 2015

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The Stormers will look to build on their superb start to the season when they host the Blues in Cape Town on Saturday.

Allister Coetzee's troops hit the ground running with an impressive 29-17 win over the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria and in the process became the first team to beat the three-time champions in their backyard since 2013.

The Stormers were huge underdogs in that clash and went into the match with just three Springboks – in captain and number eight Duane Vermeulen and midfield duo Damian de Allende and Juan de Jongh – compared to the Bulls 13 Boks.

But Cheslin Kolbe, Dillyn Leyds and Demetri Catrakilis impressed amongst the backs while forwards like Ruan Botha, Michael Rhodes, Rynhardt Elstadt, Vincent Koch and Scarra Ntubeni manned up and took the fight to their opponents and came out on top.

If they want to be successful against the Blues, they must continue where they left off in Pretoria although the men from New Zealand's North Island present a different challenge.

The Blues suffered a 23-18 loss at home to the Chiefs in their opener but with All Blacks like captain Jerome Kaino, Steven Luatua, Tony Woodcock and James Parsons in their pack and Jimmy Cowan Charles Piutau and Francis Saili amongst the backs, they have the ability to upset the Stormers on their own patch.

An area of play which the visitors will have to improve on is their tackling which wasn't up to standard against the Chiefs. Two lapses of concentration on defence allowed James Lowe and Bryce Heem to score tries.

Stormers coach Allister Coetzee: “Our youngsters put their hands up last week and I expect the same from them again this Saturday, at home at Newlands where we have a very good and proud record.

"It’s important that the players understand the need to back up last week’s performance against a very experienced Blues team.

“Someone like Tony Woodcock has played almost 150 Super Rugby games and over 100 Test matches, whereas our tight five, combined, does not boast even 90 Super Rugby appearances.

“We’re expecting a massive onslaught fom the Blues on Saturday, but it’s great to be back at home and we look forward to being in front of our home fans at Newlands."

Last time out: These sides didn't face each other last year but in 2013, the Blues held off a late charge from the Stormers to win 18-17 in Albany. The Stormers outscored their hosts by two tries to nought with Jean de Villiers scoring a brace for the visitors and Chris Noakes was the Blues' hero as he scored all their points via six penalties.

Players to watch: While several Stormers impressed in last weekend's showing against the Bulls, left wing Dillyn Leyds caught the eye with a brilliant all-round display in his debut for the men from the Cape. Another newbie in the home side's team to keep an eye on is tighthead prop Vincent Koch who was one of the star performers in the win over the Bulls. Koch was a thorn in the Bulls' flesh as a ball carrir and also scrummed superbly.

The Blues' captain Jerome Kaino starts at the back of the scrum where he should be devastating with ball in hand while Charles Piutau is another player who could provide headaches to the Stormers defenders if he finds the ball in space.

Team news: With Jean Kleyn out through injury, Jurie van Vuuren comes into the Stormers' run-on side to wear the the number four jersey. Amongst the replacements for the home side, Springbok loose forward Siya Kolisi makes a welcome return after a lengthy injury lay-off and will take his place alongside fellow international back-row Nizaam Carr on the bench while the starting flankers, Rynardt Elstadt and Michael Rhodes, will cover the second row.

For the visitors, Charles Piutau moves to full-back from the right wing, where he replaces Lolagi Visinia, while Ben Lam takes over from him on the right wing. The rest of the team is unchanged although their coach, Sir John Kirwan, has surprised by leaving All Blacks lock Patrick Tuipulotu and prop Charlie Faumuina on the bench. Utility back George Moala re-aggravated a knee injury during a light training session and has returned to New Zealand. Other injury updates include Dan Bowden, who has come through a fitness test after some time rehabilitating an injured toe.

Form: The Stormers kicked off their campaign in style with that win over the Bulls after a below par 2014 campaign in which they finished in 11th position with seven wins and nine defeats. They were equally disappointing in the South African Conference where they finished in third spot, a whopping 18 points behind the first-placed Sharks. The Blues will be keen to bounce back after their loss to the Chiefs last weekend. They finished in 10th spot on the overall table last year but had to be content with the bottom place in the New Zealand Conference.

Prediction: The men from the Cape are brimming with confidence and will make full use of their homeground advantage. Stormers to win by eight points! 

Previous results: 
2013: Blues won 18-17 in Albany
2012: Stormers won 27-17 in Cape Town
2011: Stormers won 26-28 in Auckland
2010: Stormers won 33-21 in Auckland 

The teams:

Stormers: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Johnny Kotze, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Michael Rhodes, 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Jurie van Vuuren, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Siya Kolisi, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Huw Jones.

Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Ben Lam, 13 Hamish Northcott, 12 Francis Saili, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Jerome Kaino (c), 7 Brendon O'Connor, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Hayden Triggs, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Angus Ta'avao, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 GOfa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Luke Braid, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Dan Bowden, 23 Lolagi Visinia. Date: Saturday, February 21

Kick-off: 17:05 local (15:05 GMT)
Venue: Newlands
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa), Quinton Immelman (South Africa)
Television match officials: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

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