Despite contrasting results in last week’s opening round, the teams emerged with very similar overall match stats and that points to a prospect of an evenly matched encounter on Saturday.
Both teams would primarily be looking to pack a punch upfront to ensure dominance at set-piece, laying the foundation for a matchwinning performance.
Stormers coach Allister Coetzee had pointed to the experience in the Blues’ pack of forwards which will be spearheaded by stalwart All Black loosehead prop Tony Woodcock.
“The (Super Rugby) caps in the Blues pack is more than that of our entire team,” said Coetzee.
“Someone like Tony Woodcock has played almost 150 Super Rugby games and over 100 Test matches, whereas our tight five, combined, does not even boast 90 Super Rugby appearances.”
All eyes will be on Stormers’ front-rowers Vincent Koch, Scarra Ntubeni and Steven Kitshoff will be a focal point because of their good performance against the Bulls last week.
“It’s important that the players understand the need to back up last week’s performance against a very experienced Blues team.
“We’re expecting a massive onslaught from the Blues on Saturday. Our youngsters put their hands up last week and I expect the same from them again.”
Both Coetzee and captain Duane Vermeulen have expressed their admiration for the Blues’ ability to make ground with ball in hand and their penchant for stepping.
“The Blues run the ball because they have good runners and good steppers.
“That will pose a big challenge for us because we have a good defensive system. Our defensive system is vital, far more than an individual’s ability to tackle one-on-one because at this level, with the calibre of their players, individuals will be exposed.”
Last week, the teams fared equally well in the ‘carries’ department but the Blues stood out as one of the teams with the highest ‘off loads’ statistic, which has always been a feature of New Zealand teams.
Going into Stormers’ stronghold at Newlands, Blues coach Sir John Kirwan, has taken heart from his team’s encouraging statistics in last week’s defeat against the Chiefs.
“Besides that our stats were well up on the week before (in a warm-up match) I thought we were pretty dominant but we just couldn’t finish them off,” said Kirwan.
“The tackling and the line speed is positive but we can’t give away soft tries otherwise we’ll be chasing the game like we did last week.”
Kirwan emphasised the need for the Blues to stay focused on defence so that his charges won’t present the opposition with soft tries.
“We defended relatively well except for two moments.
“The team is really aware that we gave away two soft tries.”
Kirwan has moved Charles Piutau from wing to fullback in an attempt to up his team’s strike ability from deep options.
“So we thought Piutau did well last week for us. He has a little bit more impact at 15. We just need to get him the ball in hand a little bit more when we feel he’s a little bit more influential.
“He will bring a good solid voice to the back.”