(All Saturday’s teams elsewhere on Rugbyvaria under Super Rugby)
It is the last match of the weekend’s Super Rugby when the Stormers host the Brumbies at Newlands on Saturday (Kick-off 15:05). It follows the matches between the Highlanders and Blues (09:35) and the Waratahs and Melbourne Rebels (11:45) earlier in the day.
Stormers vs Brumbies, Newlands – Kick-off: 15.05
Eight to play, six of those at home. This should give the Stormers a perfect launching pad in their drive to finish at the top of the SA Conference in the Super Rugby competition, and the first of those matches is against the Brumbies at Newlands on Saturday (Kick-off 15:05)
The Cape Town franchise come off a good and somewhat unexpected win against the Rebels in Melbourne last weekend, and confidence is a good springboard for the future (or should be, considering the Sharks double implosion after a 37-point win against the Lions).
The Brumbies have three wins from eight matches, the Stormers four from eight They’ve had different opponents, and not much can be read into their respective log positions – except perhaps that the Stormers have scored only 16 tries but on the flip side have also conceded only 16, while the more prolific-scoring Brumbies (30 tries) have also leaked 32.
♦ Stormers coach Robbie Fleck has selected Josh Stander to start at flyhalf and rested Jean-Luc Plessis who is out of the match-23 for Saturday. He also welcomed back Springbok flank Pieter-Steph du Toit, moved flank Kobus van Dyk to No 8 in place of the injured Jaco Coetzee to accommodate Du Toit and is resting Damian de Allende with Dan Kriel takin his place at centre.
Springbok captain Siya Kolisi starts from the bench.
♦ Expect an exceptionally hard battle up front against a Brumbies team that revels in the tight play but also has the pace and ability at the back to use good ball provided by their forwards.
♦ The Stormers have won three of the last four matches between the two teams in Cape Town with the last (2016) going their way by a resounding 31-11. The previous year the Stormers won their league encounter 25-24 but then folded in the quarter-final, 19-39.
The Stormers should win. But they’ll have to work for it to build up the confidence of two successive wins for next weekend’s derby against the Bulls at Newlands.
Highlanders vs Blues, Dunedin – Kick-off: 09.35
The Highlanders have not won since the second round on the competition but in their ensuing six losses they have only once been beaten by more than a single score.
They are at home in Dunedin against a Blues side that have turned their fortunes around with four wins before a close away loss to the Chiefs last weekend.
The home side have All Blacks Luke Whitelock (co-captain) and Aaron Smith back. Both will start from the bench.
If history is any indication – and it usually is – the match should be won by the Highlanders, despite their poor 2019 record. The Blues haven’t won away from home against New Zealand opposition since February 2013, and haven’t beaten the Highlanders in Dunedin since 2011, losing six times since then.
Waratahs vs Rebels, Sydney Cricket Ground – Kick-off 11:45
In Saturday’s second match, Australian Conference leaders Rebels have it all to do in their match against the Waratahs in Sydney. They have lost their last four matches against the New South Wales side who have underperformed this far in the present Super Rugby competition despite a win against a (weakened) Crusaders team.
Much of the focus will be on Kurtley Beal, Wallabies centre who also played flyhalf for the national team last season and isn’t new to the fullback position, either. This time he starts for the Tahs in the No 15 jersey with a chance to ease the general pain of Wallabies fans because of the probable loss of Israel Folau for the World Cup.
The Rebels have promised that they will take it to the home side with their forwards, but if they don’t improve on last week’s near-unbelievable missed tackle rate of 35 percent (34 from 92 tackles) against the Lions they will have no chance against a good backline.