Preview: Stormers v Brumbies
Friday, June 19, 2015 James Mortimer Getty Images
Newlands, Cape Town
Played: 17, 1998-2015
Stormers wins: 5
Brumbies wins: 11
Stormers points: 326
Brumbies points: 398
Last played: Stormers 25 Brumbies 24, 09.05.15 in Cape Town
Form: The sole remaining South African hope are in their fourth finals series in six years, but in 2010, 2011 and 2012, the men from Cape Town finished in the top two.
This time round, as the lowest ranked conference winner, they are forced to play in the opening round of the knockout stages.
If one had to identify how the Stormers entered the finals, then there is no need to look past their opening four rounds, winning all matches in their first month despite trips to Pretoria and Johannesburg.
Then things became interesting, losing three straight against New Zealand Conference opposition (Chiefs, Highlanders and Hurricanes) – but then the South Africans recovered.
Claiming six of their next seven, the Stormers secured their spot in the finals to the point where their selectors were able to rest the bulk of their frontline team in their final regular season match against the Sharks.
The Brumbies, the lowest ranked wildcard qualifier, won four of their first five matches and three of their last four.
If that hadn’t happened, Stephen Larkham’s troops, perhaps the most pragmatic team in the Super Rugby Finals Series, would have missed out. Losing five of seven mid-season (including back-to-back losses to the Tahs) almost resulted in the Canberra outfit being eliminated.
Key players: With number eight Nizaam Carr the only survivor from last week’s match, the Stormers have become the first side in 2015 to make 14 changes from one week to the next.
The reinforcements are considerable.
Nine internationals are ushered back into the starting team, although the absence of one of the finest loose forwards in the world results in Juan de Jongh gaining the captain’s armband.
The Brumbies meanwhile still play a defined version of “Jake-ball” operating with a style that prefers to play the percentages.
Some Australian fans lament this, it is far removed from the methods of the Ella brothers for example, but it is an approach that suits final’s football.
The likes of Henry Speight and Joe Tomane give the Brumbies a powerful back division, but so far this season the men from Australia’s capital prefer to play the numbers – they don’t appear overly keen to play open rugby and bring their dangerous outside men into play.
Squad update: Juan De Jongh has been named as captain for the Stormers in the absence of injured flanker Duane Vermeulen.
De Jongh will, as usual, ‘buddy up’ with Damian de Allende in the centres, with Nic Groom and Demetri Catrakilis partnering at halfback and the back three of Cheslin Kolbe, Dillyn Leyds and Seabelo Senatla reunited once more.
Up front, Nizaam Carr – the only starting survivor from Durban – will pack down at No.8 in a powerful and consistent forward pack, with hooker Scarra Ntubeni (calf muscle) passed fit to join the bench.
Ntubeni (who replaces Michael Willemse on the bench), props Ali Vermaak and Vincent Koch, lock Jean Kleyn and loose forward Michael Rhodes will serve as the forwards replacements, with Louis Schreuder, Kurt Coleman and Jaco Taute the backline replacements.
The Brumbies has named an unchanged line-up to the side that went down to the Crusaders last week for Saturday’s Super Rugby Qualifier against the Stormers.
David Pocock has been named at flanker despite leaving the field with concussion concerns in the 37-24 loss to the Crusaders at GIO Stadium.
The match against the Stormers would be Pocock’s first ever Super Rugby finals appearance. In 2013 in his first season with the Brumbies, Pocock missed the side’s run to the final following a season-ending knee injury.
Also under an injury cloud for the Brumbies is Matt Toomua who has been named as a reserve. Last week the 24-year-old played 28 minutes from the bench in just his second game in eight matches following two separate ankle injuries.
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