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Preview: Stormers v Crusaders

29th March 2013 08:02

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de villiers  Fruean crusaders v stormers

Big one: Stormers out to make home advantage count against Crusaders

The Crusaders face two extremely tough assignments while in the Republic, starting with the Stormers at Newlands on Saturday.

The two sides have experienced a similar journey thus far in the competition - both teams suffered defeats in their opening two games, but recovered to record back-to-back wins and are now chasing a hat-trick of victories.

Between them, it's safe to say the Stormers have been more impressive against tougher opposition.

Beating the New Zealand and Australian conference leaders in the form of the Chiefs and previously unbeaten Brumbies in consecutive outings is no easy feat, and the Stormers will be looking to add another big scalp to their belt.

Crossing the whitewash seven times in the Stormers' previous two wins is also an accomplishment in itself for a team that has been known more for their rock-solid defence than try-scoring abilities, and Stormers supporters will be hoping for more of the same come kick-off this weekend.

The Crusaders, meanwhile, face their third straight match against South African opposition. After banking two bonus-point wins over the Bulls and Kings in Christchurch without ever really hitting top gear, the seven-time champions can suddenly do no wrong.

Coach Todd Blackadder has warned that there's still plenty more to come from his troops, who will arrive at Newlands buoyed by the fact that they have won their last two matches there.

In fact, the Kiwis are on a three-match winning streak against the Stormers but enter this match without the likes of Kieran Read (toe injury) and Dan Carter (paternity leave).

Losing their two most influential players is a major setback for the visitors, and their replacements - Tyler Bleyendaal and Luke Whitelock - have mighty big boots to fill. For a few players, this is also their debut tour to South Africa and the experience of the missing All Blacks duo will be sorely missed.

In what's been billed as the match of the weekend, the visitors know they're in for a battle royale.

"The Stormers are a quality side. We've watched them put away the Chiefs and Brumbies, so they're definitely hitting their straps," Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder told this website.

"They're the most successful side on defence, but know how to leave teams battered and bruised too. So you just have to be ready for a physical battle - if not, you'll always end up second best.

"If you make mistakes in your own half or are ill-disciplined, they'll punish you for it. And with Jean de Villiers in the midfield, he really knows how to shut attacks down.

"They took their opportunities against the Brumbies last week, and a team that can do that against arguably the in-form side of the tournament makes us very wary indeed."

Prediction: The Crusaders enjoy winning in Cape Town - in their nine visits to Newlands, they've left as winners five times and have quite a big fan base in the Mother City. But whilst the Stormers haven't always taken advantage of playing at home, we think they'll have too much firepower for the Crusaders' young guns. Stormers by six!

The teams:

Stormers: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Gerhard van den Heever, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 De Kock Steenkamp, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Pat Cilliers.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Don Armand, 19 Nizaam Carr, 20 Nic Groom, 21 Damian de Allende, 22 Jaco Taute.

Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Tom Marshall, 13 Robbie Fruean, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Johnny McNicholl, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Matt Todd, 6 George Whitelock (c), 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Wyatt Crockett.
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Dominic Bird, 19 Jordan Taufua, 20 Andy Ellis, 21 Adam Whitelock, 22 Zac Guildford.

Date: Saturday, March 30
Kick-off: 19.10 local (17.10 GMT)
Venue: Newlands Stadium, Cape Town
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Stuart Berry (South Africa), Linston Manuel (South Africa)
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

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PosTeamPPts
1Crusaders1651
2Chiefs1644
3Highlanders1642
4Hurricanes1641
5Blues1637