Preview: Stormers v Rebels

Date published: May 22 2015

The Stormers must avoid a 'bye-week hangover' if they are to beat the Rebels at Newlands on Saturday and take control of the South African Super Rugby conference.

The Rebels have never won in the Republic but Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has been at pains to stress that his team will not be underestimating their visitors, who have claimed some big scalps this year.

Indeed, wins on the road against the Crusaders and Brumbies this term underline the Rebels' potential for causing an upset. In fact, a win for the Australian side could take them above the Stormers in the overall standings.

As a result Coetzee has avoided the temptation of using this weekend as an opportunity to give some of his Springboks an extended break to meet the quota for rest set by SARU. Schalk Burger must still sit out two games and skipper Duane Vermeulen is due one more week off but as a sign of respect for the Rebels, Coetzee has named his strongest side.

Neck-and-neck with the Bulls – who are on tour – at the top of the SA conference, a big win for the Stormers could give them some breathing room as the season reaches its climax.

"Rebels have performed really well this season," said Coetzee at Thursday's press conference.

"We just have to be up for the game and be physical — that never changes in rugby. They have beaten some big teams this season and have some proper players with a good coach so we won’t take them lightly.

"The big thing for us is that being back home at Newlands is a comfort. But we have to improve on our game and start well.

"It’s the business end of the season and I want to pick my best team, after a bye you sometimes struggle. So it was important to pick the best possible team for this challenge."

The Stormers are on a four-match winning streak against Australian opposition and with rain expected on Saturday, expect the hosts to look to their scrum, which has dominated all comers this season, to turn the screw.

Despite their poor record in South African, Rebels scrum-half Nic Stirzaker says his side won't change their approach. They still have a slim mathematical chance to make the play-offs but must win all of their remaining games and hope other results go their way.

 "We need to go back to what we had been doing well for most of the season," said Stirzaker.

"We need to bring in a heightened level of physicality than last week because that's important over here in South Africa.

"There's no major changes just because it's crunch time."

The last time these teams met: We have to go back to 2013 for the last game between these teams, when the Rebels won 30-21 in Melbourne thanks to a late penalty try.

Players to watch: Stormers centre Damian de Allende has beaten the most defenders this season (49), 23 more than the top Rebels player (Sean McMahon 26). But he had a shocker in his last outing against the Brumbies. One bad game is understandable, but two would do serious damage to his chances of a starting spot in the Springbok team for the Rugby Championship.  Wing Seabelo Senatla has been thrown straight back into the mix having just returned from Sevens duty. "He is a quality player," said Coetzee. "It’s tough to expect too much from Seabelo just yet. We know what he can do after seeing him in the Currie Cup but he still has to settle at this level. But he has blistering pace and is a lethal finisher. Seabelo brings extra pace on counterattacks and he can run off people. His scanning ability to take half gaps and his ability to chase and put receivers under pressure with his pace are valuable assets."

Also keep an eye on former Waratahs wing Cam Crawford will play his first game for the Rebels. Crawford was a member of the 2014 title-winning 'Tahs squad before joining the Rebels but has struggled to break into the team. Japanese international prop Keita Inagaki is set to become the third Japanese player to represent the Rebels when he comes off the bench against the best scrummaging front row in the tournament.

Team news: Springbok Sevens star Senatla is back from Blitzbok duty and will start on the right wing for the Stormers in the place of Johnny Kotze. One other change to the backline sees Louis Schreuder rotated with Nic Groom at scrum-half. Groom is joined on the bench by Bongi Mbonambi, who makes way at hooker for Scarra Ntubeni in another rotational shift.

Crawford starts on the right wing as part of three enforced changes. Cruze Ah-Nau will make his first start of 2015 at loosehead prop while Tom English returns on the left wing. Tamati Ellison (groin), Sefanaia Naivalu (concussion) and Toby Smith (back) miss out, but flanker Scott Fuglistaller returns to the starting line-up.Dom Shipperley will again play outside centre.

Form: The Stormers are coming off a bye week but have won four of their last five games. They beat the Brumbies 25-24 a fortnight ago. The Rebels have won six of their 12 games this year and two of their last three but were thrashed 46-29 by the Reds a week ago. The Rebels have lost all eight of their previous games in South Africa, picking up just two losing bonus points in the process and conceding an average of 40 points per game.

Predictions: With wet weather expected, the Stormers pack should rumble over their visitors. Stormers by 15 points.

Previous results:

2013: Rebels won 30-21 in Melbourne
2012: Stormers won 26-21 in Cape Town
2011: Stormers won 40-3 in Melbourne

The teams:

Stormers: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Duane Vermeulen (c), 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Manuel Carizza, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Jean Kleyn, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Huw Jones.

Melbourne Rebels: 15 Mike Harris, 14 Cam Crawford, 13 Dom Shipperley, 12 Mitch Inman, 11 Tom English, 10 Jack Debreczeni, 9 Nic Stirzaker, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Sean McMahon, 5 Lopeti Timani, 4 Luke Jones, 3 Paul Alo-Emile, 2 Pat Leafa, 1 Cruze Ah-Nau.
Replacements: 16 Tom Sexton, 17 Keita Inagaki, 18 Laurie Weeks, 19 Cadeyrn Neville, 20 Jordy Reid, 21 Colby Fainga’a, 22 Luke Burgess, 23 Bryce Hegarty.

Date: Saturday, 23 May
Venue: Newlands, Cape Town
Kick-off: 19:10 local (17:10 GMT, 03:10 AEST, 05:10 NZST)
Referee: Stuart Berry
Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman, Rodney Boneparte
Television match official: Deon van Blommestein