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    Stormers prepare for 'best pack in Super Rugby'

    2017-04-18 14:33

    Lloyd Burnard - Sport24

    Cape Town - Things are getting real for the Stormers very quickly. 

    Having started the season with six straight wins that included victory over the Chiefs at Newlands two weekends ago, coach Robbie Fleck's men finally came unstuck against the Lions in Cape Town this past Saturday. 

    They lost 29-16, but conceded four tries while only scoring one in a result that has solidified the Lions' position as the country's best Super Rugby franchise. 

    There is certainly no need for the Stormers to panic - they have been superb in most aspects so far this season - but they are now in New Zealand where fixtures against the Crusaders, Highlanders and Hurricanes threaten to make life very difficult over the next three weekends. 

    The clash against the Lions was brutal, and it wasn't surprising to hear that the players needed a couple of days off after that fixture. 

    But there is no rest for a side desperate to make waves in Super Rugby this year and the Stormers where on a flight to New Zealand on Sunday, spending around 30 hours travelling. 

    The Crusaders challenge is up first and the Stormers will meet the only undefeated side left in the competition. 

    "There are about seven or eight All Blacks in their pack, they're playing confidently and they're at home. It doesn't get much tougher than that, does it?" said Stormers assistant Paul Feeney from Christchurch on Tuesday.

    "The boys are in good spirits. They've obviously had a long travel. We've had a long day today reviewing the Lions and we're going to be previewing the Crusaders shortly tonight. We took some good learnings out of the last game.

    "The bodies are reasonable. We're excited by the challenge of facing the Crusaders."

    The Stormers spent a lot of time focusing on conditioning in pre-season and that level of fitness will surely be tested on their New Zealand trip. 

    The Kiwi sides seemingly never run out of steam, and often they hurt opponents in the final quarter. 

    But if the Stormers are to be successful against the 'Saders this weekend, Feeney believes that they will have to combat what he considers to be the best pack in Super Rugby right now. 

    "What makes them dangerous is that five of their starting forwards start for the All Blacks," said Feeney.

    "When you look at (Joe) Moody, (Owen) Franks, (Sam) Whitelock, (Kieran) Read ... they can put out an All Black forward pack easily and that's what makes them dangerous.

    "They're very good set piece, very physical, very well organised. Then in the backs Richie Mo'unga has come of age, Ryan Crotty in the midfield ... all across the park they've got very good players.

    "It's to do with their forward pack. When you're All Black-laden up front ... it's the best forward pack going around in Super Rugby, it's as simple as that." 

    The Stormers certainly have the personnel up front to take it to the Crusaders - Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi all capable of getting physical - but there are concerns over size in a couple of other areas on the park. 

    The Crusaders wing options - George Bridge, Manasa Mataele and Seta Tamanivalu - all weigh in at around 100kg while the Stormers wing duo of Cheslin Kolbe and Dillyn Leyds come in at around 80kg each. 

    But Feeney has seen enough from his two speedsters this season not to worry about that.

    "You look at your strengths and weaknesses. We've got size in our backline. Dan du Plessis and EW Viljoen are doing a good job and you just run different shapes depending on where your size is," he said.

    "Cheslin and Dillyn are tackling well this year. They're using the angles and the sidelines so I'm not worried about their size.

    "Most wingers will be bigger than Cheslin Kolbe. Cheslin and Dillyn have been two of our form players this year and I think they've done well on attack and defence.

    "We don't get too fixated by size. You get guys who can play 10kg above their weight and I think Cheslin is one of those guys."

    The Stormers are expected to name their team for Saturday's clash on Thursday. 

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