Having impressed in Round 1 the Stormers will be hoping to make it back-to-back victories when they take on the Jaguares this weekend.
Robbie Fleck’s team took plenty of criticism for the way they flopped out of the Super Rugby play-offs last season to the Chiefs, having topped the Africa 1 Conference, but the sense from that win over the Bulls last Saturday was this is a side in their second season under Fleck who are eager to make amends.
What’s more, they might have made the pick-up of the season in South Africa with the recruitment of free agent SP Marais following his release by the Sharks.
Marais was inspired against the Bulls, as was debutant EW Viljoen, and the sense this year is that the Stormers have built up significant depth in their squad as they aim to improve on 2016.
That depth is about to get a signifcant test in midfield with the loss of Damian de Allende for 12 weeks, given Juan de Jongh is already sidelined and Huw Jones is away with Scotland.
The Springbok has his detractors but he offers a focal point in attack and frequent progress across the gain-line. That will be missed while De Allende is away, with Dan Kriel – twin brother of Springbok back Jesse – taking over in the 12 shirt this week. Even if bodies are light in the centres, leading lights elsewhere, especially Pieter-Steph du Toit, shone brightly enough in Round 1 to suggest this is a side that means business.
The Jaguares too had their moments in a loose contest with the Kings which they always looked like winning; don’t be fooled by the 39-26 scoreline, they were well on top in the second half before consolation scores.
There are undoubtedly tougher teams in the competition than the Kings but considering the number of injuries that have hit the Jaguares in the build-up to the new season, watching younger players in key positions step up and deliver will have thrilled head coach Raul Pérez.
One member leaving the sick ward for the starting XV this week is Nicolás Sánchez, the influential Argentina fly-half who starts in Cape Town at half-back alongside the impressive Gonzalo Bertranou.
Discipline issues once again plagued part of the Jaguares’ best efforts last weekend, which makes getting on the right side of referee Jaco Peyper early on absolutely vital as the visitors seek to cut down on those penalty counts which killed much of their hopes in 2016.
Winning at Newlands would mark a sizeable leap forward for the Argentine franchise in their second season, but has this fixture, with other notable injuries and coming at this point in campaign, arrived too early? An adventurous side with a persistent offloading game and competent in the set-piece, knocking off the Stormers would be quite something.
The last time these teams met: The Stormers travelled to Buenos Aires last year and came out on the winning side in a tough encounter, edging the score 13-8 for their fourth win in five matches. Jerónimo de la Fuente and Cheslin Kolbe’s tries cancelled each other out but it was the boot of Stormers fly-half Kurt Coleman which proved to be the difference, kicking two penalties for the victory.
Players to watch: Should the Stormers succeed in out-muscling a physical Jaguares pack then Rynhardt Elstadt will need to once again offer up a bruising 80 minutes in the back row. A significant presence at 198cm and 115kg, the former South Africa U20 international can make good ground in attack and help to secure clean possession at the breakdown. Dan Kriel also has a chance to make the 12 shirt his own for the near future with a good performance.
Meanwhile, the consistently threatening Joaquín Tuculet was a menace for the Kings to handle last weekend, scoring a try of his own and making a key break to set up Leonardo Senatore’s score. The Argentina full-back has proven to not only be a reliable option when it comes to the Jaguares kicking game, but also has the pace to cut through any gaps that present themselves. Only Vince Aso made more metres than Tuculet last weekend. Watch out too for Tomás Lezana in the back row.
Team news: Stormers head coach Robbie Fleck has made two changes to his starting line-up to face the Jaguares at Newlands on Saturday. Dan Kriel comes in at inside centre to replace the injured Damian de Allende, whilst Sikhumbuzo Notshe will start at number eight in place of Nizaam Carr who drops down to the replacements bench.
Jaguares head coach Raúl Pérez has made three changes to his starting line-up. Ramiro Moyano and Nicolás Sánchez both come into the backline for Matías Moroni and Joaquín Díaz Bonilla on the right wing and fly-half respecitvely, with Moroni on the bench. Up front Santiago García Botta is at loosehead, replacing Lucas Noguera Paz, with the forwards otherwise unchanged from Port Elizabeth.
Form: A win apiece for both teams in Round 1. The Stormers have lost only one of their last 12 regular season games against opposition from outside South Africa, including wins in their last two such fixtures (W10, D1). The Jaguares have now won three of their last four games, notching more wins in that period than in all of their 12 prior games in the competition (W2, L10).
Prediction: The Stormers won’t get as easy a first half as last week against the Bulls, but their good start to the season should continue. Stormers by six.
2016: Stormers won 13-8 in Buenos Aires
Stormers: 15 SP Marais, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Siya Kolisi (c), 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg
Replacements: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Dewaldt Duvenage, 22 Robert du Preez, 23 Seabelo Senatla
Jaguares: 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Ramiro Moyano, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 11 Santiago Cordero, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Tomás Lezana, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Matías Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Felipe Arregui, 2 Agustín Creevy (c), 1 Santiago García Botta
Replacements: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Lucas Noguera Paz, 18 Cristian Bartoloni, 19 Marcos Kremer, 20 Benjamín Macome, 21 Felipe Ezcurra, 22 Santiago González Iglesias, 23 Matías Moroni
Date: Saturday, March 4
Venue: Newlands, Cape Town
Kick-off: 17:15 local (15:15 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa), Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
Photo credit: UAR/ Gaspafotos