The Stormers will look to reclaim a spot at the top of their conference when they take on the Cheetahs in Cape Town on Saturday.
Once regarded as the strongest South African team in 2016, the mighty have fallen dramatically with the Stormers now sitting fourth in the overall SA group. They sit on a mutual points tally with the Bulls at 32, only dropping behind their bovine counterparts due to points difference. If the Stormers win their clash against the Cheetahs and the Lions pull off a Jantjies-less win, the Stormers will reclaim the lead in Africa 1 and go second behind the Lions on the overall log.
It’s a cat fight for the middle ground of the conference. The Jaguares are nipping at the Cheetahs’ heels as they are just three points behind the men from Bloemfontein. The Cheetahs are not in a position to try and catch those ahead of them, so their greatest hope for the rest of the competition is to not get caught and a win against the Stormers would give them the inside track.
Schalk Burger’s injury will be a massive loss to the Stormers. The experience and leadership that Burger possesses in Super Rugby is invaluable to any team, especially one in the dire straits that the Stormers are in at the moment. Besides his talismanic presence, Burger acts as a battering ram for his side, as he has made 108 carries this year alone.
The last time the teams met: The Stormers scored two tries on the day securing a 20-10 win. A poor level of skill was to blame for the relatively low score-line as both teams intended to play an expansive game. The Stormers scored in the first half through flyer Leolin Zas. Cheetahs captain Francois Venter replied with a 5-pointer of his own. The Stormers were able to eventually pip their northern rivals through a try from Sikhumbuzo Notshe.
Players to watch: Damian de Allende has been pretty shaky since his return from injury and has struggled to hit his straps. Last weekend, however, the former Milnerton student scored a fantastic try, showing his value. Since every game from now on is a Springbok trial, expect a big performance from de Allende. Sikhumbuzo Notshe has been a revelation for the Stormers back-row this season. He has filled the roll of a utility loose-forward but has shined from every position at the back of the scrum, scoring 3 tries and remaining a menace at the breakdown.
Captaincy suits Francois Venter. The former Bull has had a strong season despite playing for a team not doing so well. He has made 16 offloads this season with 23 defenders beaten making him an obvious attacking option for the boys from Bloem.
Team news: With captain fantastic Juan de Jongh out due to injury, Daniel du Plessis will make his super rugby debut at outside centre. Burger is still recovering from a foot injury which means Notshe will don the eight jersey with JD Schickerling on the bench. Johnny Kotze moves to the replacements bench in place of the injured Huw Jones.
The Cheetahs have made minimal changes to the team that beat the Kings last weekend with Shaun Venter being relegated to the bench and Tian Meyer starting. Neill Jordaan is the only other change as he replaces Henco Venter in the substitutes.
Form: The men from Cape Town have hit a downward spiral in terms of form. After a very promising 40-22 destruction of the Reds in Cape Town, they have since lost to the Waratahs at home, drawn to the Sunwolves, a team they beat 46-19 previously, and then lost 17-13 in Pretoria.
The Cheetahs had an incredibly disappointing tour to Australia, losing every one of their games. They are coming off a 34-20 win against the Kings, but even they will know this was not a victory worth celebrating and not a season-saving game.
Prediction: The Stormers are coming off a frustrating loss against the Bulls away and will be out prove themselves at home. Stormers by 7.
2016: Stormers won 20-10 in Cape Town
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
Stormers: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Daniel du Plessis, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe (c), 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Oli Kebble
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Alistair Vermaak, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Brandon Thomson, 23 Johnny Kotze
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (c), 12 Michael van der Spuy, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Charles Marais
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Luan de Bruin, 19 Armandt Koster, 20 Niell Jordaan, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Niel Marais, 23 Nico Lee
Date: Saturday 28 May 2016
Venue: DHL Newlands, Cape Town
Kick-off: 15:00 local (13:00 GMT)
Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant Referees: Ben O'Keeffe, Nick Briant
TMO: Shaun Veldsman