Super Rugby Match Preview
Saturday 3rd March 2018
Crusaders vs Stormers
Kickoff: 18h35Local Time, 06h35 GMT, 08h35 SA Time
Referee: Nicholas Berry (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Jamie Nutbrown (New Zealand), Cam Stone (New Zealand)
TMO: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)
Two teams who are both without some of their big names will take to the field in Christchurch on Saturday.
The Crusaders have just announced that Matt Todd has a broken thumb and that he will be out for a couple of weeks. He joins fellow All Blacks Kieran Read, Israel Dagg, Joe Moody and Owen Franks in the rehab squad. Those are some pretty big names!
The Stormers are still without Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Jano Vermaak, Scarra Ntubeni, Ali Vermaak, Jean-Luc du Plessis, Dan du Plessis, and Juarno Augustus. They have added flyhalf Damian Willemse, to that list of hospital cases. Bignames amongst that lot too!
However, the loss of their All Blacks does not impact on the Crusaders quite as much as the loss of big-name players does on the Stormers. The South African team has plenty of young talent coming through the system, but they do not have the experience or nous that more experienced players bring to the game.
The Stormers come into the game on the back of a loss which could easily have been a win, perhaps should have been a win. Their own errors and poor decision making, coupled to some poor finishing game the game to the Waratahs a week back.
The Crusaders faced a stern test from the Chiefs, but showed their overall power game was still working as they ground the Chiefs down, and eventually took the game away in the last 20 minutes.
The Crusaders have been forced to replace the injured Matt Todd, and Billy Harmon earns his first start in a Crusaders jersey on the openside flank on Saturday.
The only other change to the starting pack sees Luke Romano getting a rest on the bench while Scott Barrett starts, partnering Sam Whitelock in the second row.
The rest of the starting team is unchanged from last week.
Two changes are spotted on the bench where Andrew Makalio and Heiden Bedwell-Curtis have both been named in the Match 23.
The Stormers have been forced into some emergency repairs with the leg injury to Damian Willemse, so utility back Dillyn Leyds will start at fly-half in one of four changes to the Stormers starting line-up.
Leyds’ place on the wing is taken by Seabelo Senatla, with EW Viljoen coming in at outside centre for the injured JJ Engelbrecht in the only other backline change.
In the front row, JC Janse van Rensburg makes his first start of the season, giving Steven Kitshoff a rest on the replacements bench, while in the loose trio Cobus Wiese is back at blindside flank after missing out last week.
The Stormers have never beaten the Crusaders in New Zealand. In fact, the Crusaders have not been beaten by a foreign visiting team since 2015.
The Stormers have not had much luck in New Zealand at all. They last won a match there in 2013, losing the next 8 games on the trot.
History is thus firmly on the side of the Crusaders.
The Stormers are likely to be a bit low on confidence after last week’s loss, and they will need every drop they have in their collective tanks to take on the Crusaders. One got a slightly foreboding feeling watching the ‘Saders last week, it looked as if that machine of 2017 was finding it’s gears and getting all the cogs working as they absorbed whatever the Chiefs could throw at them, and then they started to take over.
The only real weakness I could see in the Crusaders was their defence, an 81% tackle success rate is about as low as they have ever been. They missed 29 tackles in the process.
And then there is their discipline – two yellow cards in one game?
The Stormers scrum has been solid in the first two rounds of this year’s competition, and they certainly had the better of exchanges against the Waratahs last weekend. But this Crusader scrum is something different.
I can fully understand the tactical shift of playing Steven Kitshoff off the bench in the last 20 minutes or so. The Crusaders are amongst the best finishers in the game, dominating the last 20 minutes of almost every game they played in 2017. This dominance was based on their pack taking control of the set-pieces and the loose ball. The power in that pack is built on the fact that they had two international props sitting on the bench, waiting to replace the two internationals who started the game.
However, the real issue for the Stormers has been their defence when opponents counter-attack. Scrambling has saved their bacon a couple of times, but that will not be enough against the Crusaders. They need to be rock solid at the back, and they haven’t so far in 2018!
I do not think the Stormers are the compete team yet, they are missing too many important engine parts.
I am also unsure of Dillyn Leyds at 10. He is mercurial at best and seemed to struggle under pressure in the first two games of the year, and that was on the wing and at fullback. The pressure will be a lot closer this time!
The Crusaders are looking like a machine, and they have the depth, the experience, and the players to overcome the loss of five All Blacks…
The Crusaders will win, by around 15 points.
Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Seta Tamanivalu, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Jordan Taufua, 7 Billy Harmon, 6 Peter Samu, 5 Samuel Whitelock (captain), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Wyatt Crockett
Replacements: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 Chris King, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitchell Hunt, 23 Manasa Mataele
Stormers: 15 SP Marais, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Dillyn Leyds, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Cobus Wiese, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 JD Schickerling, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Ramone Samuels, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg
Replacements: 16 Dean Muir, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Kobus van Dyk, 22 Justin Phillips, 23 George Whitehead