|Force v Stormers: Saturday 9.45pm (AEST)
at nib Stadium, Perth
|Best Bet: Stormers -8.5 ($1.90)
Value Bet: Score After First Place Kick – Stormers 7-0 ($5.00)
The Stormers can confirm their place in the finals with a win in Perth this weekend, while the Force are striving to climb off the bottom of the Australian Conference table before the season is out.
Jono Lance is slowly feeling his way back from a long injury layoff in the Force No.10, but star loose forwards Matt Hodgson and Ben McCalman are both on the injured list. Jaco Taute has taken over the Stormers’ fullback duties from South Africa sevens rep Cheslin Kolbe.
The Stormers have won six and the Force one of the teams’ previous seven encounters. The Stormers have won three of their four games in Perth, including a 13-6 result last year.
The Force have lost their last three narrowly to the Blues, Rebels and Cheetahs – the latter a one-point defeat in Bloemfontein. With a 2-11 record, they are three points adrift of the second-last Reds in the Australasian Group standings. The Force are ranked 17th in attack and 16th in defence.
The Stormers are nine points clear at the top of Africa 1 Conference, and five points behind South African Group leaders the Lions. They trounced the Rebels 57-31 in Melbourne last week, and boast the competition’s second-best defence and seventh-ranked attack.
Powerful utility-back Jaco Taute will be aiming to settle in the No.15 spot ahead of the finals, and is set for an intriguing fullback battle with the equally versatile Wallabies winger Dane Haylett-Petty.
Stats That Matter
Both teams are 6-7 against the start in 2016. Four of the Stormers’ six wins over the Force were by 14 points or more. The Force have won just one of their last 13 at nib Stadium. The Stormers are 7-6-1 on the road since the start of last season (7-7 against the line). Home sides are 65-48-3 this season (62-55 against the start). Home underdogs are 7-29-3 overall and 19-20 ATS in 2016.
The Force struggle to put points on the board, while the absence of Hodgson and McCalman prevents them from competing with Super Rugby’s better forward packs. The Stormers cut loose with seven tries last week against the Rebels and a similar outcome appears certain this week. The tourists shape as arguably the best option against the line of the entire round.
The Way It’s Shaping
Stormers by 20
Stormers -8.5 ($1.90)