Why Stormers will march on

    2013-03-28 14:50
    Cape Town - Sport24 chief writer Rob Houwing, in his regular South African Super Rugby preview, sees a 50 percent record for our teams this weekend ... wins for the Stormers and Cheetahs and defeats for the Bulls and Kings.



    When: Saturday, 19:10
    Referee: Craig Joubert (SA)
    TV: M-Net, SS1, SHD
    Commentators: Matthew Pearce and Bob Skinstad (Eng); John van Rensburg and Kobus Wiese (Afrik); Kaunda Ntunja and Makhaya Jack (Xho)
    Long-range weather outlook: Mostly clear, mild, fresh breeze

    Background: Perhaps the Stormers will find some extra motivation (as if it were necessary against the seven-time champs?) in a desire to “do it for Schalk”. Still-absent captain Burger has had another nasty little setback with bacterial meningitis, although Jean de Villiers always steps into the leadership gap so seamlessly anyway. There is also the incentive of trying to silence those pesky “Cape Crusaders”, although the main obstacle to victory obviously comes from the Crusaders themselves. Both teams will be missing some headline names, but we could have a cracker on our hands all the same. If the Stormers can match the intensity they showed against the Brumbies, they might well pick up a third win on the trot. After all, “Bleyendaal and Heinz” in the vital Nos 10 and 9 jerseys for the visitors doesn’t have quite the same aura as the more familiar “Carter and Ellis”, does it?

    Key head-to-head: What would a build-up week be for the Stormers without some personnel calamity or other? The one-match suspension of regular loosehead prop Steven Kitshoff means that PAT CILLIERS gets an unexpected window of new opportunity to earn a first-team ticket, even if No 1 is rather less familiar territory to him. The versatile Springbok’s work-rate about the park is seldom open to question, but how he handles Crusaders tighthead strongman OWEN FRANKS, a seasoned All Black, at the set-piece could be a key factor on Saturday.

    Recent history: April 14, 2012: Crusaders 31 Stormers 24 (Crusaders won twice at Newlands in 2011, including semi-final)

    Rob Houwing’s prediction: Stormers by four points

    SA GAME 2

    BRUMBIES v BULLS, Canberra

    When: Saturday, 10:40 SA time
    Referee: Jonathon White (NZ)
    TV: M-Net, SS1, SHD
    Commentators: Australian panel
    Long-range weather outlook: Partly cloudy, mild, gentle breeze

    Background: The Brumbies may have tasted first-time 2013 defeat at Newlands last Saturday, but it must be remembered that the game was right in the balance until Gerhard van den Heever’s effectively contest-ending intercept try, and their collective quality and Jake White’s tactical nous was in evidence for good passages. They will expect to bounce back before their home faithful, their long slog home from South Africa offset to a good degree by the Bulls’ “last tour game” weariness. Stripped of a few key personnel, Pierre Spies’s team will do really well to edge this one and although I can’t quite see it happening, they do have a puncher’s chance! 

    Key head-to-head: I thought that DEWALD POTGIETER was a real livewire at blindside flank for the Bulls as they so nearly snatched victory against the Reds. If his blond mop is ever-present again at Canberra Stadium, the Bulls’ chances of upsetting the hosts will only be enhanced. Though the Brumbies XV had not been revealed as this was penned, Potgieter’s blindside rival ought to be skipper BEN MOWEN – watch out too for the fetcher duel between Deon Stegmann (assuming he is passed suitably fit on match day) and evergreen George Smith. 

    Recent history: April 21, 2012: Bulls 36 Brumbies 34

    Rob Houwing’s prediction: Brumbies by six points

    SA GAME 3

    CHEETAHS v REBELS, Bloemfontein

    When: Saturday, 17:05
    Referee: Glen Jackson (NZ)
    TV: SS1, CSN, SHD
    Commentators: Hugh Bladen and Warren Brosnihan (Eng); Christo Olivier and Toks van der Linde (Afrik)
    Long-range weather outlook: Partly cloudy, mild, light breeze

    Background: I still think we have to be a bit careful in suggesting the in-form Cheetahs simply have to pitch up at their home paddock to romp past the dishevelled Rebels. They are not yet world-beaters, despite their unexpected on-tour heroism, and any complacency could be fatal. For their part, the Rebels now have apparent bad egg Kurtley Beale out of the equation, and if their camp is suddenly smelling of fresh roses as a result, they may just be up for this one after the Sharks fiasco last weekend. That said, I do tip the Cheetahs, even if not by the sort of margin some pundits are suggesting.

    Key head-to-head: The Rebels have the ever-slippery JAMES O’CONNOR, who has been put to utility duty quite a lot recently, seemingly settling back into a fullback role. He is dangerous in broken play, and on the usually firm “Bloem” surface might get some good attacking opportunities. (Yellow-carded against the Sharks, the team will want the full 80 out of him here.) Opposite number HENNIE DANILLER is a little less mercurial, perhaps, but also a purposeful runner because of his height and strength, and has been a bastion of general reliability at the back in the Cheetahs’ winning streak.

    Recent history: March 18, 2012: Rebels 26 Cheetahs 33

    Rob Houwing’s prediction: Cheetahs by three points

    SA GAME 4

    HURRICANES v KINGS, Wellington

    When: Saturday, 05:35 SA time
    Referee: Nick Briant (NZ)
    TV: M-Net, SS1, SHD
    Commentators: New Zealand panel
    Long-range weather outlook: Cloudy, cool, moderate wind

    Background: All credit to the Kings ... they have seldom yet looked all at sea in Super Rugby, even if their battery of critics would wish it otherwise. But their overseas leg coming relatively early, even as they find their feet at this level of competition, has done them no favours and injury disruptions are also hampering their limited squad. It is for that reason that I find it hard to imagine the men from Port Elizabeth even getting close in this one. A moody sort of side, the Hurricanes nevertheless have a tradition for enterprise and if they get ahead quickly, the floodgates could open to a fair degree. It’s all about the Kings being suitably defiant early on, if they are to somehow cause an upset.

    Key head-to-head: Neither is the most physically imposing beast you will see in the No 10 channel, but the battle between the Hurricanes’ BEAUDEN BARRETT and the visitors’ DEMETRI CATRAKILIS - emerging customers both - at flyhalf is a reasonably mouth-watering one. They are also prolific goal-kickers, so if this game happens to be close (most pundits suggest a comfortable ‘Canes win, mind) their respective accuracy at the posts could have a bearing on things.

    Recent history: Not applicable

    Rob Houwing’s prediction: Hurricanes by 30 points

    *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

    HAVE YOUR SAY: The Sharks have a bye in Round 7, but which of the Kings, Bulls, Cheetahs and Stormers do you foresee winning this weekend? Send your thoughts to Sport24.

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