The Stormers will hope to use their clash against the Kings in Cape Town on Saturday to build momentum for the impending quarter-finals.
After winning the Africa 1 conference the Stormers have secured themselves a home a quarter-final in Cape Town where they are almost positively going to play a New Zealand franchise but which one depends on how this weekend turns out. They could face the Hurricanes, Chiefs, Highlanders or the Crusaders.
The Stormers will be very confident playing the Kings as they are coming off an incredibly successful tour to Australia after scoring an accumulative 79 points and doing well to tactically and physically unravel their opponents.
The Kings will want to finish a torrid season on a winning note in Newlands. They have only won two games this season and a victory against one of South Africa’s strongest franchises will be a satisfactory feather in their cap. The men from Port Elizabeth will do their best to try and get at least a losing bonus point as to push themselves off the bottom of the table, leaving the Sunwolves in the unpleasant position of wooden spoon holders.
To call the Kings ‘nearly-men’ is probably a bit of an over-statement as they have recorded some pretty big losses in this competition. But they still seem to play with so much heart and vigour that they ought to be admired in an obscure sense.
The Stormers have fielded an almost full-strength side against the Kings. The only noticeable omissions are the towering presence of Springbok second-rowers Pieter-Steph du Toit and Eben Etzebeth. The Stormers line-out has become one of their greatest weapons this season, as they are ranked first in line-outs stolen with 34. They will no doubt be resting their tallest timber for the quarter-finals.
Stormers head coach Robbie Fleck believes the Kings are a strong team and have given other sides a fright in the first 40 minutes of the game and his side will have to be wary of that.
"Yes, the conference has been won and we’re playing the Kings. They’re a side that have always been in the mix with most teams at half-time, so they’re not an easy side to play. We need to find an intensity that we haven’t had this season and that’s what we need to take into this game. It’s actually a very crucial week and game for us from our side," Fleck said.
Opposed to Fleck is Kings head coach Deon Davids whose priorities are vastly different. The Kings coach says they are excited to play the Stormers and also commented on the drawbacks his team had to face this season.
"We are going to enjoy ourselves and are looking forward to the challenge," Davids said.
"We knew from the start it was going to big season for us, especially due to the challenges of not having a proper pre-season to assist with conditioning."
Last time these teams met: The Stormers claimed a 24-12 victory over the Kings in Port Elizabeth in 2013. Deon Fourie, who was playing number six on the day, picked up a brace to give his side the win over a spirited Kings team. Demetri Catrakillis scored all of the Kings' points as he knocked over four penalties to keep the score board ticking. The Stormers were two points ahead of the Kings at the end of the first-half and only due to Fourie scoring on the 40th minute. The visitors went into the break ahead 11-9. The two teams exchanged penalties in the second-half but the game was finally closed out by a second Fourie try in the 77th minute.
Players to watch: When the Stormers do something special, Sikhumbuzo Notshe usually has something to do with it. The 2016 break-out star seamlessly weaves intelligence, athleticism and flair. Last weekend Notshe was once again in exemplary form. He was industrious defensively making 10 tackles, he beat two defenders and broke off the scrum, drew in two Force defenders and gave a perfectly timed pass to ignite a move that would end with a Siya Kolisi try. Expect super-Sikhumbuzo to have another blinder against the Kings. Vincent Koch has been magnificent this season. The big front-rower has been significant in a powerful Stormers scrum and his loose play has been instrumental in getting the Stormers front-foot ball. He made a monstrous nine tackles last weekend, making him one of the Cape side's top defenders.
Stefan Watermeyer had a great game last weekend despite his team's loss. The former Lions centre ran some great lines making 62 metres in the process. Watermeyer proved the depths of his agility against the Lions, breaking the line three times and beating three defenders while also adding a five pointer to his team's score through an expertly timed interception.
Team news: Robbie Fleck has made a couple of changes to his forward pack. Rynhardt Elstadt replaces Siya Kolisi in the seven jersey with Kolisi providing cover from the bench, Scarra Ntubeni is rotated with Bongi Mbonambi at hooker and JD Schickerling and Jean Kleyn replace Pieter-Steph du Toit and Eben Etzebeth in the second-row while the Springbok pair are being rested. In the back-line Huw Jones takes Daniel du Plessis's place at outside centre after being ruled out because of injury and while Nic Groom is being rested, Louis Schreuder will start at scrum-half with with Jano Vermaak as the replacement nine. On the bench, Chris Van Zyl has been called up into the squad as second-row cover and prop JC Janse van Rensburg makes a return from injury.
Southern Kings head coach Deon Davids made three changes to his side. Steven Sykes replaces Schalk Oelofse in the second row and regains the captaincy. Dewald Human gets a starting berth at fly-half for the first time. Jacques Engelbrecht will start at number eight with Aidon Davis dropping to the bench. Oelofse has been bracketed on the bench with Sintu Manjezi. Oelofse had a slight bump to his shoulder and in case he doesn't recover in time, Manjezi will wear the 19 jersey.
Form: The Stormers will be brimming with confidence after they come back from a successful tour to Australia where they took two scalps in a resounding manner. They produced a second-half revival to smash the Rebels in Melbourne 57-31. The Capetonians then turned their sights on Perth and strangled the Western Australians into submission in a soaking nib Stadium to claim a 22-3 victory. The Stormers are looking like a confident side as they approach the business end of the competition.
The Kings' one of two wins came in Round 14 when they recorded a 29-22 win over the Jaguares. That unfortunately wasn't the beginning of a fairytale ending to their campaign. Since then they have produced spirited performances yet disappointing results. Their latest scorelines consisted of a 48-18 drubbing against the Highlanders and a 57-21 loss to the Lions in Johannesburg.
Prediction: The Stormers should win fairly convincingly but The Kings will put up a tough fight. Stormers by 12.
2013: Stormers won 24-12 in Port Elizabeth
2013: Stormers won 19-11 in Cape Town
Stormers: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Schalk Burger (c), 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Alistair Vermaak.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 JP Smith, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Brandon Thomson, 23 Scott van Breda
Kings: 15 Malcolm Jaer, 14 Lukhanyo Am, 13 Stefan Watermeyer, 12 Shane Gates, 11 Wandile Mjekevu, 10 Dewald Human, 9 James Hall, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 Andisa Ntsila, 5 JC Astle, 4 Steven Sykes (c), 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Edgar Marutlulle, 1 Sti Sithole
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Schalk Ferreira, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Schalk Oelofse/Sintu Manjezi, 20 Aidon Davis, 21 Kevin Luiters, 22 Elgar Watts, 23 Jeremy Ward
Date: Saturday July 16
Venue: Newlands, Cape Town
Kick-off: 17:05 local (15:05 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant Referees: Quinton Immelman, Rodney Bonaparte
TMO: Shaun Veldsman