Reality bites for Stormers
The Stormers will enjoy a rare occasion of being the underdogs, but there is good reason for their status.
It has not been a good start to their season – an embarrassing 10-34 loss to the Lions and a fortuitous 19-18 victory over a struggling Hurricanes outfit.
Now they are up against a Crusaders team determined to bounce back from their own horror start to the season – one of only two teams yet to collect any points – but with a distinct advantage over the visitors.
It is a game that will pit some of the current stars of the game – All Black supremo Kieran Read against Springbok hard man Duane Vermeulen.
However, rather than an opportunity for individuals to prove points, the game is about two teams determined to get back into the Super Rugby race.
"The reality is, we are 12th on the global standings, fifth [last] in our [South African] conference and we have never beaten the Crusaders in Christchurch," Stormers coach Allister Coetzee said in a teleconference call from Christchurch.
"A lot has been said about a tough tour," he said of a four-match trip that will see them face the Crusaders, Chiefs, Brumbies and Reds on consecutive weekends.
"However, we are just focussing on our processes and it is a massive opportunity for us as team to get it right."
While the Stormers had a near meltdown in the line-outs against the Hurricanes last week, Coetzee felt there are a lot of other facets that require attention.
"It is not just the line-out, but all facets of the game where they [the Crusaders] are a quality side," he said of a team features the 206-centimetre tall Dominic Bird.
"We will look to fix our line-outs and with De Kock [Steenkamp] there it will hopefully come right – the communication would be better.
"We are looking at the system and what suits him as a No.5 lock.
"It [line-out] is a platform you must get right, because you need to play off that and it is going to be important to us."
He said the absence of the injured All Black captain Richie McCaw, fractured thumb, would not detract from the threats posed by the home team.
"These guys have beaten us in the past without Richie [McCaw]," the Stormers coach said, adding: "They have experienced players who have stood in, with success, for Richie in the past.
"He [McCaw] has a massive influence as a leader, but [No.8] Kieran Read has done exceptionally well.
"We are [in a] similar [position] with Rynhardt [Elstadt]," he said of the injured utility forward who has been sent home from New Zealand because of a shoulder injury.
"We know what value he brings to the [Stormers] team.
"Richie [McCaw] may be a blow to them, but I am sure the guy standing in will want to take his opportunity."