The Vodacom Stormers will be looking to their tight five to lead the way to victory when they take on the Highlanders in a Super 14 match at Newlands on Saturday.
Forwards coach Jerome Paarwater earlier this week said the experienced Highlanders pack would provide his eight with its sternest test thus far.
Paarwater warned that JD Moller, Hanyani Shimange, Eddie Andrews and company must up the concentration levels if they want to be competitive against the Highlanders.
Coach Kobus van der Merwe echoed those sentiments later this week.
“It is the first New Zealand team we will face,” Van der Merwe said.
“This will be the real test for our tight five. They are normally more physical than Australian teams.
“The Aussie teams are technically very good and have good skills.
“But the Highlanders, with players like Anton Oliver, pose the biggest threat to us in the tight five. They showed last week in the wet they dominated the Cheetahs in the set pieces.
“That will be a true test for us this weekend,” Van der Merwe said.
The coach also earlier this week said this is a watershed week for his team. They know they have to get a home win behind their backs if they want to reach the semi-finals.
The Stormers beat the Cats away from home in the opening round, but then faltered against the Waratahs and also threw away a victory in the draw against the Brumbies last Saturday.
Now the Stormers realise another defeat would be disastrous. “We have spoken about it, this week being the turning point for us.
“We are on seven points and the top teams have 15 and 14 points. If we want to stay in the hunt it is very important that we don’t fall further behind. We need to go to 11 or 12 points to keep us in that position.
“It is a home game for us and we only have three more home games and we can’t afford another defeat,” Van der Merwe said.
The Highlanders had a bad build-up to the game, with several players being laid low by a stomach bug. That, however, would not detract from their determination, so the Vodacom Stormers could expect another tough battle against the Kiwi’s.
Teams for Newlands:
Vodacom Stormers: 15 Werner Greeff, 14 Gus Theron, 13 De Wet Barry (captain), 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Rayno Benjamin, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Bolla Conradie, 8 Adri Badenhorst, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Luke Watson, 5 Andries Bekker/Henk Eksteen, 4 Ross Skeate, 3 Eddie Andrews, 2 Hanyani Shimange, 1 JD Moller.
Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Neil Fullard, 18 Henk Eksteen/Gerrie Britz, 19 Justin Melck, 20 Neil de Kock, 21 Naas Olivier, 22 Marius Joubert.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Blair, 14 Vilimoni Delasau, 13 Neil Brew, 12 Seilala Mapusua, 11 Roy Kinikinilau, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Chris Smylie, 8 Craig Newby, 7 Josh Blackie, 6 Hoani MacDonald, 5 James Ryan, 4 Tom Donnelly, 3 Carl Hayman, 2 Anton Oliver (captain), 1 Clarke Dermody
Replacements: 16 Jason Macdonald, 17 Chris King, 18 Filipo Levi, 19 Tim Boys, 20 Jimmy Cowan, 21 Callum Bruce, 22 Richard Kahui.
Referee: Brett Bowden (Australia).