So you would think that the Stormers should chop the Sunwolves into tiny pieces of sashimi when the two teams meet for the second time this year at the Singapore National Stadium tomorrow (kickoff 1.55pm, SA time).
The Stormers beat the Sunwolves 46-19 at Newlands on April 8, with the Cape franchise outscoring their visitors by seven tries to three in a dominant display of power and poise.
However, the Sunwolves also made the Stormers look rather ordinary on defence as they broke through several tackles. South African fullback Riaan Viljoen scored two of their three tries on the night after finding space to move in.
And tomorrow, the Sunwolves will actually be even more dangerous, as they will have playmaker Tusi Pisi back at flyhalf for the encounter.
The Samoan missed out in Cape Town due to injury and Japanese international Yu Tamura started at No 10.
Tamura is not a bad player – as the Springboks found out during the World Cup last year – but Pisi is the type of pivot who can make the magic happen, and the sort of player the Stormers hate to defend against.
Two weeks ago, the Stormers struggled to contain the Waratahs’ strike-runners who ran off their flat-lying flyhalf Bernard Foley’s shoulder. In that match, also in the Mother City, the Stormers missed two crucial tackles from set-pieces that cost them the game.
While Pisi is not as rounded a No 10 as Foley, he is arguably the better attacker. He also brings a running game to the party, as he has good feet and an eye for a gap. Combine that with his great passing, and Pisi could be more than a handful.
“For me, he is instrumental in the way they attack, and is one of the better flyhalves in the competition,” Stormers coach Robbie Fleck said yesterday from Singapore.
“He is an experienced player and he attacks the gainline really well. He plays a similar game to what Bernard Foley plays for the Waratahs, he takes it nice and flat and brings his inside and outside runners into the game.
“Pisi is certainly a smart player and someone who really controls things for them. I have always said that I feel they are one of the better attacking sides in the competition, regardless of their results.”
Pisi’s battle against young Stormers linchpin Jean-Luc du Plessis could have a massive bearing on tomorrow’s clash, especially in the humid conditions in Singapore.
Like the Sunwolves, the Stormers prefer a fast-paced, attacking game, which is right up Du Plessis’ alley.
The former Paarl Boys’ High star has shown his skills in playing a running game. But he will have to vary his play a lot more to make sure that his team doesn’t run out of gas.
Du Plessis did show a couple of great touches with the boot against the Waratahs, but he will have to be a lot more accurate than he has been, as Viljoen’s big boot can easily turn the Stormers’ larger pack around and make them work harder for possession than they really need to.
“We expect them to up the tempo, especially in this heat. The key for us is to play at our tempo, and control the game, the way we want to control it,” Fleck said.
“Shutting Pisi down is one part of that, but we need to ask questions of their defence ourselves.”
Fleck, though, says the humidity shouldn’t affect the Stormers’ offloading game.
“The humidity is quite tough here and the boys are going to sweat a bit. But apparently the conditions aren’t too bad to handle a rugby ball. We will check tomorrow when we have our captain’s run, but it should be all good. From the footage we have watched, it doesn’t seem to be bad.”
The coach has made four changes to the side for this weekend’s clash.
Johnny Kotze replaces the suspended Leolin Zas on the right wing and Louis Schreuder starts at scrumhalf in a rotational switch ahead of Nic Groom.
In the front row, hooker Scarra Ntubeni makes his first start since his return from injury, with Bongi Mbonambi moving to the bench.
Lock JD Schickerling comes back into the starting lineup as well, with Rynhardt Elstadt shifting to flank in a new loose trio alongside Siya Kolisi and Nizaam Carr, who moves to No 8. - Cape Times
Original source: Fleck plans to nullify Pisi