The Stormers need a momentum-shifting win in Christchurch if they’re to taste success on a season-defining tour.
The Cape franchise are in no position to drop games having won only two of their first five matches. The lashing of the Lions marked a turnaround, but the true shift in momentum could arrive this Saturday.
As far as play-off prospects are concerned, the Stormers need to beat the Crusaders. They’re expected to win this game as well as the clash in Dunedin with the fixtures against the Waratahs, Brumbies and Hurricanes the potential stumbling blocks.
Coach Rassie Erasmus told keo.co.za a good start is crucial.
‘The first game on tour is important and we know it won’t be easy to beat the Crusaders in Christchurch,’ he said. ‘It’s perhaps a bit tougher than last year when we played the Reds in our first tour game. It’s also a five-week tour, so it’s vital we get off to a good start.
‘We’ve got here a bit earlier [last Saturday] and had the opportunity to settle which should make a difference. Playing against one of the better teams in the competition, you need to be at your best.’
Erasmus believes the underrated Saders are dangerous and refused to single out any one facet or player. The collective will need to be contained.
‘Everyone is talking about a depleted Crusaders pack, but we certainly respect them. We don’t fear them, but we respect them.
‘They are missing Richie McCaw and a few others, but if you look at our set-up we also have our fair share of injuries.’
Captain Jean de Villiers believes the Stormers can make the best of a bad situation. The injury-forced positional switches in the backline worked for the Stormers against the Lions, and it could work again in Christchurch.
‘I have confidence in these guys – it’s our strongest combination at present,’ De Villiers told this website. ‘They did well against the Lions and they deserve a crack at the Crusaders.’
The Springbok centre will move to No 13 with Peter Grant playing at 12 alongside flyhalf Willem de Waal. Gcobani Bobo remains at wing in the absence of Nick Koster and Tonderai Chavhanga.
‘Having Bash [Grant] at 12 gives us a few more options on attack. We also have the benefit of a left-foot/right-foot combination when he’s playing next to Willem.
‘Bobes has played on the wing and I’ve played a lot of my rugby at 13, so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.’
The Stormers skipper, who will play his 50th match for the franchise this Saturday, is confident his side can repel the Saders’ attack.
Flyhalf Stephen Brett has given their backline direction while Leon MacDonald is a constant threat from fullback. The Stormers’ defence has been solid, but they will be tested this weekend.
‘Brett is a quality attacking player and you saw a couple of seasons ago what a good replacement he was for Dan Carter,’ said De Villiers. ‘They have some strong players, but it’s really about the performance of both teams on the day.
‘We have the ability to win this one but it’s about producing the goods on the park.’
By Jon Cardinelli