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Preview: Brumbies v Stormers

20th March 2014 16:51

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The Stormers will be looking for their first win on a gruelling overseas tour in Canberra on Saturday against the Brumbies.

Are the Cape Town side in a crisis? That depends which side of the fence you sit. On the one hand the have won just one of their opening four matches and sit 13 points behind leaders the Sharks.

The gameplan and style is unimaginative - Gio Aplon aside - and injuries have ravaged their squad depth at lock. No team in the competition has scored fewer tries or made less offloads. Their set-piece is average.

That's the bad stuff anyway, and it is bad. This is a team that was challenging for the playoffs a few years back, who reached back-to-back semi-finals in 2011 and 2012 - topping the league that year - and lost in the final to the Bulls in 2010.

There's hope however in the way the Stormers have played over the last two weeks against the Crusaders and the Chiefs. They went down by a point in Christchurch and hauled themselves back to only trailing 24-20 against the champions.

Plus, Schalk Burger has looked reborn on this tour - flying into rucks and tackles and carrying with purpose.

Sadly those negatives outweigh the positives. The lock pairing for Canberra of Ruan Botha and Michael Rhodes are sadly nowhere near the level of Eben Etzebeth, De Kock Steenkamp and Manuel Carizza. All three are out injured.

Given the Stormers' line-out has only run at a success rate of 81 percent anyway, the 10th best in the competition, it's difficult to see how they will secure enough set-piece ball to compete against a tight Brumbies unit.

Welcoming back Peter Grant puts a familiar set of hands back on the tiller in place of the talented Demetri Catrakilis, while Sailosi Tagicakibau can make something out of nothing.

That won't be enough against the Brumbies though. An impressive win over the Waratahs last week was a big result for Stephen Larkham and Laurie Fisher considering the number of players they currently have out injured.

The Waratahs have looked resurgent this season too, so palming them off at home to maintain a two-point lead at the top of the Australian Conference is a great scoop.

Jesse Mogg in particular will have loved getting the better of Israel Folau in a foot-race.

In a way it feels like business as normal for the Brumbies following the departure of Jake White, with three wins from four.

Injuries are doing the best to derail their plans with Henry Speight the latest man to drop out, so Joe Tomane's return is well-timed.

This and next week's games against the Stormers and Rebels are must-wins with a tough run following against the Blues, Reds and Chiefs - which means banking as many points as possible.

The Stormers defence though is stubborn. Nic White and Matt Toomua have been dynamic so far in picking apart opposing sides, leading to 11 tries, but patience will be required against Allister Coetzee's tourists.

It just feels like a game too far on the third leg of a physically and mentally gruelling tour for the Stormers, who are yet to produce a complete performance.

Prediction: With Tomane back and the Brumbies back dominating the set-piece, this should be a good home win. Brumbies by eight.

Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Joe Tomane, 13 Andrew Smith, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Robbie Coleman, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (c), 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Jordan Smiler, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 JP Smith.
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 Ruaidhri Murphy, 19 Jack Whetton, 20 Lachlan McCaffrey, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Stephan Van Der Walt, 23 Lionel Cronje.

Stormers: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Jean de Villiers, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Deon Fourie, 5 Michael Rhodes, 4 Ruan Botha, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Oliver Kebble, 18 Brok Harris, 19 Siya Kolisi, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Demetri Catrakilis, 23 Juan de Jongh.

Date: Saturday, March 22
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
Kick-off: 19.40 local (08.40 GMT)
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)

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Australian Conference
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PosTeamPPts
1Waratahs1658
2Brumbies1645
3Western Force1640
4Reds1628
5Melbourne Rebels1621