The Investec Stormers will tackle the in-form Blues on Friday with a revamped match squad, but coach Gert Smal is optimistic that his charges will be up to the challenge.
The Stormers won their first game on the overseas leg of their Super 12 campaign – against the Reds at Ballymore last Saturday – but they did not convince with the quality of their play.
This week Smal made numerous changes to the side that dug deep for a 21-20 win over the Queenslanders, with the biggest shock the axing of star wing Breyton Paulse. Speedy Free Stater Tonderai Chavhanga gets his second start for the Stormers, with Gus Theron on the other wing in place of veteran Pieter Rossouw.
Smal explained his decision as follows: “I’ve assessed Tonderai’s strengths – pace, defence and strength in contact – and felt it’s the right time to bring him in.
“Every game from now on is very important. Tonderai has showed a lot of good things. If I don’t do it now, when do I do it? He has the ability to make an impact.
“The support is there for him, and our expectations are high. We’ve now got pace on the outside.”
Against the Reds, the Stormers tactical kicking was not good and if home fullback Chris Latham had better support, the result could have been different.
“The kickers did not strike the ball well. It sliced off the boot and they did not fetch good distances. Tactically it was too easy for the Reds to get the ball,” admitted Smal. Against the devastating Blues runners such as Doug Howlett, Joe Rokocoko and Carlos Spencer the Stormers would have to be on top of their kicking game.
Spencer will be the big danger – not only with his running, but also the tactical kicking he used so effectively in the Blues’ demolition of the Bulls last week.
The Stormers have done their homework in finding a way to shut down Spencer. “If you allow him space, he’ll cause you grief,” Smal said.
“It’s not only his distribution of the ball and his attacking play that causes problems, but also his tactical kicking.
“One has to put his pack under pressure if you want to limit his options and hope it will work through to the backs.”
The Stormers are third on the table with 23 points, six more than the Blues.
Investec Stormers: Werner Greeff, Tonderai Chavhanga, Marius Joubert, De Wet Barry, Gus Theron, Gaffie du Toit, Neil de Kock, Adri Badenhorst, Hendrik Gerber, Corné Krige (c), Willem Stoltz, Quinton Davids, Eddie Andrews, Pieter Dixon, Daan Human. Reserves: David Britz, Pat Barnard, Rob Linde, Pierre Uys, Bolla Conradie, Chris Rossouw, Gavin Hume.
Blues: Malili Muliaina, Doug Howlett, Rico Gear, Joe Rokocoko, Sam Tuitupou, Carlos Spencer, David Gibson, Xavier Rush (c), Justin Collins, Bryce Williams, Ali Williams, Angus Macdonald, Kees Meeuws, Derren Witcombe, Tony Woodcock. Reserves: Nathan Kemp, John Afoa, Greg Rawlinson, Jerome Kaino, Billy Fulton, Tasesa Lavea, Ben Atiga.