Preview: Stormers v Chiefs
HEAD TO HEAD: Played 15; Chiefs 7 wins, Western Province/Stormers 8.
Springboks Juan de Jongh (hamstring) and Jaco Taute (groin) will again be missing from action while niggles to Bryan Habana, Joe Pietersen and prop Frans Malherbe, sustained during last week's loss to the Sharks, should be given the all clear before game day.
On the positive side, coach Allister Coetzee revealed hooker Tiaan Liebenberg is set to make his return. He also said lock Eben Etzebeth and Scarra Ntubeni should return to training on April 1 but would not rush captain Schalk Burger, who has started light training in the gym.
From Dave Rennie's camp, Bundee Aki (corked thigh) is the only injury concern from last week and will likely be replaced by Charlie Ngatai in the midfield.
It's unfortunate to see the Stormers have not evolved from last season and are again struggling to attack. While their defence is of the highest standard, they lead the competition with 86 percent of tackles made, but are dead last in points scored (23), tries scored (2), line breaks (2) and off-loads (10). A round one loss (25-17) to the Bulls may have easily gone the other way if first-five Elton Jantjies didn't miss all four of his shots at goal. The following week in Durban was even more frustrating after they dominated in all facets of the game but could not make it count on the scoreboard as they went down 12-6 in a try-less affair.
It has been a very different story for the men from Hamilton, however. Their season could not have started better after they defeated a highly anticipated Highlanders outfit and then the visiting Cheetahs, scoring over 40 points in each of those contests. The positioning of Tim Nanai-Williams at centre has been a masterstroke by Rennie. After two games he leads the Chiefs in running metres (198) and has helped them top the competition in points scored (86), tries scored (10) and line breaks (13). Star recruit Gareth Anscombe has converted all but one of their scintillating tries and is yet to miss a penalty shot at goal after six attempts.
The Chiefs may have emerged as the benchmark side after the three opening rounds but they will need to find another gear as they prepare for a tough fortnight in the Republic. This will definitely be the case against a Stormers side chomping at the bit get its campaign underway in its first appearance at home. The Chiefs definitely have a lot going for them but, to be fair, haven't faced the quality of defence that will greet them in Cape Town. Sloppy handling and plenty of dropped ball by the opposition sparked their stunning counter-attack and ability to break free in loose play. This week will be a slow grind where opportunities are presented to them far less frequently. However, the lack of creativity displayed by the Stormers is not promising. The Chiefs are also competent defenders and proved it for 40 minutes against the Cheetahs in Hamilton. Since the sides did not clash last year, when both were in hot form, it's hard to say what the nature of the contest will be like. Judging on current form it would look as though the Chiefs are set to maintain their perfect record. But something tells me that at Newlands Stadium, where not one opposition team triumphed last year, the Stormers will grind out a tough five-point win