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VIDEO: The Westerners' warhorses who 'scare' Stormers

The Stormers, by their own account, are in a ‘must-win’ mindset in the final dash to the United Rugby Championship play-offs.

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In fifth place, on 50 points, they have Ulster (49), Edinburgh (48) and Benetton (48) breathing down their proverbial necks.

Just outside the top 10 Connacht and the Lions (both on 44 points) are also lurking.

To add intrigue to the complicity of the race to the top eight and a spot at Europe’s top table next season, the Stormers travel to Galway on Saturday to face Connacht at the Sportsground.

Then they return to South Africa to host the Lions in Cape Town.

However, if they can’t win against a tricky Irish opponent this week, their destiny may no longer be in their own hands.

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It is making for an entertaining sub-plot this week’s Round 17 action.

Stormers defence coach Norman Laker pointed to two 30-plus veterans in the Irish team – flyhalf Jack Carty and centre Bundee Aki – as key threats.

“The way they keep the ball in hand to put teams under pressure [is a challenge],” Laker told @rugby365com, adding: “They have a great attacking system which can stretch teams’ defence systems.

“We saw that when we played them in Stellenbosch [a 38-15 in September 20220] and the semifinal [a 43-25 triumph in May last year].

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“If you are not on song for 80 minutes, defensively, they can hurt you and score tries from anywhere on the field.”

The defence guru said the Connacht attacking structure asks different questions from teams to those posed by other teams.

Aki, an Ireland stalwart, is Connacht’s broadsword against the Stormers’ longsword.

Having played against the 34-year-old New Zealander before, the Stormers are intimately familiar with his strengths – especially his ability to get ‘go-forward’ in the midfield.

(WATCH as Stormers defence coach Norman Laker explains to @king365ed who are the biggest threats in the Connacht team….)

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“However, if you focus on just one player, the teammate next to him can breach your defence,” Laker said.

“I have learned my lessons in the past by putting too much emphasis on just one player.

“If you focus too much on an individual, the players next to him can shine.”

Aki joined Connacht in 2014 after two years with the Chiefs from New Zealand, where he won a Super Rugby title.

The centre made his international debut against South Africa in 2017 and has become a mainstay in the Ireland squad – with more than 50 caps.

In 2021 he became the fourth player from the province to play for the British & Irish Lions.

Carty made his first appearance for the senior Connacht team in September 2012.

Following the retirement of Dan Parks, Carty became Connacht’s first choice at flyhalf.

Carty has represented Ireland at various age-group levels internationally and has gone on to be capped 11 times with the senior Irish side.

He is the current Connacht captain.

@king365ed
@rugby365com

* Picture credit: @connachtrugby

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