Robert du Preez’s goal-kicking and game management will be key when the Stormers face the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The Stormers have the momentum after a 33-9 bonus-point win against the Bulls in round one. And yet the Cape side would do well to check any arrogance, for they have not won in Bloemfontein since 2013.
The 2015 derby in the City of Roses ended in disappointing fashion, at least as far as the Stormers were concerned. In the second half, the then coach Allister Coetzee subbed star goal-kicker Demetri Catrakilis. Kurt Coleman, the replacement flyhalf, proceeded to miss four penalty-goal attempts. The Cheetahs went on to win 25-17.
This Saturday, both teams will be looking to their goal-kickers to produce an accurate and ultimately game-winning performance. Fred Zeilinga will be under pressure after a wayward showing against the Jaguares last week. Robert du Preez will be encouraged to do more of the same following that seven-from-seven goal-kicking display against the Bulls.
While Du Preez deserves credit for that performance, it must be said that he was aided in large part by a dominant Stormers pack. The scrum improved as the game progressed, and the Stormers were excellent at the lineout on both attack and defence.
The Stormers forwards are buzzing after that statement-making performance. However, they must know that the Cheetahs will demand more of them at the set pieces this coming Saturday.
The Cheetahs managed to disrupt the Jaguares at the scrum last week, which is no mean feat considering the number of Test stars in the latter side’s pack. The Cheetahs also boast South Africa’s Player of the Year, Lood de Jager, in their lineout ranks. De Jager has already told SA Rugby magazine how badly he wants to win the battle against the likes of Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit in this derby.
Of course, De Jager is but one man. The Stormers boast Etzebeth, Du Toit and several other Bok players in their pack. As was witnessed last week in the fixture against the Bulls, the Stormers have the depth on the bench to maintain their forward effort over the course of 80 minutes.
The Cheetahs will struggle to win this clash if they fail to dominate up front. They have to take the fight to the Stormers at the set pieces and breakdowns. They have to pressure the Stormers halfbacks, Du Preez in particular. While the 22-year-old flyhalf was flawless in front of goal last week, he did make several mistakes in general play when the Bulls defenders put him under pressure.
The Cheetahs need to win the forward battle if their attack is to flourish. While they made a lot of metres against the Jaguares, they may find the Stormers tougher to breach. Statistically, the Capetonians were the best defensive side in round one.
One would expect the Stormers to cash in on early opportunities via the boot of Du Preez. The bonus point for three tries more than the opposition should be a secondary consideration at this stage of the season.
Two wins from two, as well as a first victory in Bloemfontein since 2013, would be viewed as a success for a Stormers side that is under new management in 2016.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Stormers 10, Cheetahs 5
In Bloemfontein: Cheetahs 4, Stormers 3
STATS AND FACTS
– The Stormers have won 10 of their last 13 matches against the Cheetahs though the spoils are split evenly at three wins apiece in the last six instalments of this fixture.
– The Cheetahs have lost their last four matches at home in Super Rugby, though they’ve managed to score 66 points over their last two home matches.
– The Stormers missed only six of their 136 tackle attempts in the opening round, making them the most successful tacklers in the competition (96%).
– The Cheetahs are the only team so far this season to have more than one player gain 100-plus metres (Francois Venter, Raymond Rhule, both 141).
The Teams :
Cheetahs – 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (c), 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Niell Jordaan, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Charles Marais.
Subs: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Luan de Bruin, 19 Francois Uys, 20 Boom Prinsloo, 21 Henco Venter, 22 Tian Meyer, 23 Niel Marais.
Stormers – 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Juan de Jongh (c), 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Oli Kebble.
Subs: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Frans Malherbe (c), 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Huw Jones.
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Rodney Bonaparte (South Africa), AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
TMO: Willie Vos (South Africa)