Vodacom Super Rugby
Newlands a House of Pain?
Cape Town - Is the glass half full or half empty?
The perceptions of Stormers supporters ahead of Friday night’s Vodacom Super Rugby match against the Highlanders fall into two distinct camps: optimists and pessimists.
The optimistic view is that the Stormers are unbeaten despite of not playing particularly well, while the pessimists will argue that they will lose as soon as they encounter stronger opponents than the Lions and Cheetahs.
The Highlanders fall in the latter category, especially after beating the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld
last weekend and getting the better of the Chiefs in Dunedin and the Hurricanes in Wellington in the preceding weeks.
That they managed those victories is not necessarily down to them being among the most talented teams in the tournament, but rather that they are a cohesive unit without so-called "superstars".
But the Stormers have won 10 of their last 14 Super Rugby league matches since last year and have not been defeated at Newlands since going down to the Brumbies on February 26, 2010. The home side will therefore start the match as favourites with good reason.
However, the Stormers should not fool themselves. They were quick to blame the heat for their lethargic effort against the Cheetahs last weekend, but the Highlanders showed in a sweat session on Monday just how professional players should approach such conditions.
The Kiwis were exhausted after being put through their paces, but did not shy away from the hard work.
For the Stormers the challenge is therefore to take a similar positive attitude into Friday’s match so that their superior talent can ultimately prove decisive.
There are eight Highlanders in the starting line-up that lost 33-0 in Cape Town last year when Bryan Habana’s last-minute try ensured a bonus point victory.
Nobody will expect the Stormers to repeat that margin of that victory or perhaps even score four tries. The Highlanders, under new coach Jamie Joseph, simply appear to have too much fight in them to walk off the field having been held scoreless.
Greater accuracy in the set phases, an improved work-rate and enterprise on attack are non-negotiable for the home side.
Meanwhile, the Highlanders suffered a late setback with the news that wing Kade Poki won't be available due to a knee injury. Poki scored two tries against the Bulls and will be replaced by James Paterson.
But Poki or no Poki, the Stormers have to pull finger. If not, Newlands and not Carisbrook, will be the House of Pain.Teams:
15. Gio Aplon, 14. Danie Poolman, 13. Juan De Jongh, 12. Jean De Villiers (captain), 11. Bryan Habana, 10. Peter Grant, 9. Dewaldt Duvenage, 8. Duane Vermuelen, 7. Francois Louw, 6. Pieter Louw, 5. Andries Bekker, 4. Rynhardt Elstadt, 3. Brok Harris, 2. Deon Fourie, 1. CJ van Der Linde
Substitutes: 16. Siyabonga Ntubeni, 17. Frans Malherbe / JC Kritzinger, 18. De Kock Steenkamp, 19. Nick Koster, 20. Ricky Januarie, 21. Gary van Aswegen, 22. Jaque FourieHighlanders:
15. Ben Smith, 14. James Paterson, 13. Kendrick Lynn, 12. Shaun Treeby, 11. Siale Piutau, 10. Robbie Robinson, 9. Jimmy Cowan, 8. Nasi Manu, 7. Alando Soakai, 6. Adam Thomson, 5. Josh Bekhuis, 4. Jarrad Hoeata, 3. Chris King, 2. Jason Rutledge, 1. Jamie Mackintosh (captain)
Substitutes: 16. Mahroni Schwalger, 17. David Te Moana, 18. Tom Donnelly, 19. John Hardie, 20. Aaron Smith, 21. Tony Brown, 22. Telusa Veainu