Can the Stormers stop the Hurricanes?


The Stormers’ numbers are a bit middle of the road, much like their mid-table position on the combined log.

So, if we we take everything into account, the Hurricanes should blow the Stormers away at the Wespac Stadium tomorrow morning (SA time). Putting on the TV might not be worth nursing your public holiday hangover on the couch after all.

However, the 23-man Stormers match day squad and their coaching staff won’t be thinking they are going to get thumped, especially because the run-on team have been boosted by the return of captain Duane Vermeulen and Eben Etzebeth.

Those players will not only bring grunt to the team, but the experience and class needed to take on a Hurricanes team full of All Blacks.

The Stormers can match the Hurricanes physically, but the real challenge is containing the Super Rugby leaders’ backline.

Fullback Nehe Milner-Skudder is the only player in the backline without a Test cap – although he did tour with the New Zealand Maori at the end of the last year. But even he is a dangerous and skilful runner.

In fact, the Hurricanes have a nice mix of pace, power, intelligence, brawn and experience at the back. It’s a cocktail that would leave most opponents with a big headache.

In the centres they have Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith, who have almost 300 Super Rugby matches between them. In fact, it’s quite a big occasion for Nonu, who plays his 150th game for the Hurricanes.

He joins New Zealand hookers Keven Mealamu and Corey Flynn, as well as Australian lock Nathan Sharpe in this exclusive club.

Cory Jane and Julian Savea bring the X-factor on the wings, while Beauden Barrett and TJ Perenara are one of the best halfback combinations in the world. So, the Stormers’ defence will have to be good, because this Hurricanes side will get more than just their fair share of the “pill”.

The Stormers have shown that they can scrap with the best of them, and likes of Vermeulen and Etzebeth will have to lead from the front, especially in defence, where they must try and stall the Hurricanes’ momentum with big hits on the gain line.

“We spoke about the attitude on defence,” coach Allister Coetzee said this week after the Stormers missed quite a few tackles last week against the Highlanders.

“We had a good session and the players know where we went wrong defensively. Obviously, we want to rectify it, and we did that at training.

“We pride ourselves on our defence and we dropped our standards against the Highlanders. I’m sure the attitude will be better this coming weekend,” said Coetzee.

The Stormers must also try and exploit hooker Dane Coles’s absence tomorrow.

The Hurricanes No2 is out of the match after hyper-extending his elbow against the Blues on March 13.

“Dane went to the surgeon this morning,” Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd said yesterday after announcing his team.

“He has some ligament damage in his elbow and we were concerned he’d require surgical intervention.

“That’s not the case, but he will be another four or five weeks until he plays.”

The line-out is an area where the Stormers can exert pressure, especially because they are planning to get the ball off the park so that they can make the game more “structured”.

If they kick badly, though, the might be picked off in the “Cake Tin”. One-by-one ... - The Star

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