Preview: Stormers v Sunwolves

Date published: April 7 2016

The in-form Stormers will be determined to return to Super Rugby action with a bonus-point win over the Sunwolves at Newlands this Friday.

After four victories from five games before a week's break, Robbie Fleck's side have been riding high following the Allister Coetzee era.

What's noticeable is the age of this Stormers group, as take out Schalk Burger and the average age of their pack is 23, which is a fantastic sign for the team's pathway to senior rugby. The starting backline for this clash also has an average of 23, so this has to be a positive.

They might not be so pleased with their diminishing stocks at fly-half however, where another youngster, Jean-Luc du Plessis, comes in as Kurt Coleman is ruled out for the remainder of the season due to a knee injury.

No doubt the Sunwolves will want to make life as tough as possible for the debutant at Newlands, with the experienced Louis Schreuder and Juan de Jongh needing to offer plenty of help.

It won't be an easy win and judging from how the Sunwolves have fared against South African teams this season – their last three fixtures against opposition from the Republic have been decided by five points or fewer – they will not be brushed aside. The Sunwolves have also scored 55 points in their last two games against teams from South Africa so the Stormers would be foolish not to respect what is to come.

But on paper it surely must be another win for Fleck's men, which would put them in a great position, particularly with the Sharks taking on the Lions this Saturday. It will then be off to Johannesburg for the Stormers as tougher tests arrive for this promising young group.

Players to watch: A forward and a back catch the eye for the Stormers as talismanic back-row Schalk Burger should relish this game on home soil, particularly after a well managed start to his campaign. As always he will put himself about and link well with his backline, which should help fly-half Jean-Luc du Plessis no end on his debut. With injuries to Robert du Preez and Kurt Coleman, what a chance for him.

For the Sunwolves, second-row Tim Bond was a standout last week at the Kings as he made fourteen carries in the defeat. Impressively that was the equal second most of any player across the Super Rugby round. For the first time this season, Yu Tamara gets to pull the strings at number ten with Tusi Pisi given a well-earned rest.

Team news: Damian de Allende and Rynhardt Elstadt are both set for their season bows after being named on the bench. Half-backs Nic Groom and Kurt Coleman are both sidelined through injury, so Louis Schreuder will partner Jean-Luc du Plessis at nine and ten respectively. Up front a rotational switch sees props Oli Kebble and Vincent Koch come back into the XV, Pieter-Steph du Toit returns at lock alongside JD Schickerling while the final change sees Schalk Burger come back into the starting line-up at number eight, with Nizaam Carr on the bench.

In total there are seven personnel changes and two positional moves for the Sunwolves. Yu Tamara steps in to the fly-half role with Tusi Pisi rested, with Derek Carpenter, the former Northland back, coming in at inside centre. Mifiposeti Paea takes over from Harumichi Tatekawa at outside centre, with Yuki Yatomi coming in at scrum-half. Rotation in the front row means starts for Masataka Mikami and Takuma Asahara either side of captain Shota Horie. Shinya Makabe is another new face in the second row as he takes over from Hitoshi Ono. Finally, Tomás Leonardi is promoted to the starting lineup at number eight, allowing Ed Quirk to move to the openside as Andrew Durutalo drops to the bench.

Form: A home loss to the Sharks has been the only blemish on the Stormers' season so far as they sit on four wins from five games, their most recent coming at the Jaguares. That means they're atop the South African Group, knowing they can strengthen that position on Friday.

The Sunwolves are bottom of the standings after five straight losses. However, only their defeat to the Rebels was a big loss so they can take heart by running the Bulls and Cheetahs close. They will feel though that last week's loss at the Kings was one they should have won.

Prediction: A well-timed bye week will have given the Capetonian side extra freshness and the Sunwolves should be beaten. Stormers by 17.

The teams:

Stormers: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Juan de Jongh (cc), 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Schalk Burger, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 JD Schickerling, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Oli Kebble
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Frans Malherbe (cc), 19 Rynhardt Elstadt, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Huw Jones, 23 Damian de Allende

Sunwolves: 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Viliami Lolohea, 13 Mifiposeti Paea, 12 Derek Carpenter, 11 Akihito Yamada, 10 Yu Tamura, 9 Yuki Yatomi, 8 Tomás Leonardi, 7 Ed Quirk, 6 Liaki Moli, 5 Timothy Bond, 4 Shinya Makabe, 3 Takuma Asahara, 2 Shota Horie (c), 1 Masataka Mikami
Replacements: 16 Takeshi Kizu, 17 Ziun Gu, 18 Shinnosuke Kakinaga, 19 Yoshiya Hosoda, 20 Andrew Durutalo, 21 Atushi Hiwasa, 22 Harumichi Tatekawa, 23 Yasutaka Sasakura

Date: Friday, April 8
Venue: DHL Newlands
Kick-off: 19:00 local (17:00 GMT)
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greef (South Africa)