|Stormers v Chiefs: Sunday 3.00am (AEST)
at Newlands, Cape Town
|Best Bet: Chiefs -3.5 ($1.90)
Value Bet: Chiefs by 6-10 ($5.00)
After surrendering top spot in the New Zealand Conference with a final-round loss, the highly-fancied Chiefs face a tough road trip to Cape Town to stay alive.
The Stormers have been hit by an ankle injury to flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis, who is in serious doubt. Robert du Preez could make a return in the No.10 from a lengthy injury layoff, however. Winger Kobus van Wyk is expected to play despite battling a rib injury.
The Chiefs have had a couple of setbacks, with All Blacks centre Seta Tamanivalu ruled out of the match with a knee injury and veteran flanker Liam Messam ruled ineligible for the finals by SANZAR after spending most of 2016 with the NZ Sevens team.
The teams’ 18 matches have been shared nine apiece. The Stormers hold a 5-3 advantage at home against the Chiefs, but the Chiefs prevailed 28-19 at Newlands last year.
After accounting for Rebels and Force in Australia after the Test break, the Stormers downed the lowly Kings 52-24 at home in the final round. Landing in third spot with a 10-4-1 record, the Stormers are ranked fifth in attack and third in defence.
Since the international break, the Chiefs scored a tough 10-point win over the Crusaders in Fiji before flogging the Reds 50-5 in Brisbane, but a 25-15 loss to the Highlanders in the last round left them in sixth place on the ladder. The 11-4 Chiefs are ranked second in attack but just ninth in defence.
The battle between Test locks Eben Etzebeth and Brodie Retallick at the set-piece and in the loose will be absolutely vital.
Stats That Matter
The Stormers are 7-8 against the start in 2016, while the Chiefs are 9-6 ATS this year. The Stormers are 10-4-1 at home since the start of 2015 (6-9 against the line). The Chiefs are 10-7 on the road since the start of 2015 (11-6 ATS). Home sides are 76-56-3 this season (69-66 against the start). Home underdogs are 8-27-3 overall and 24-28 ATS in 2016.
The Stormers benefitted from not having to play any New Zealand teams this year, but the flipside is that they may be underprepared for an opponent of the Chiefs’ quality. In fact, the Stormers haven’t played any of the top-eight finishers since Round 8. Meanwhile, the Chiefs’ only away game in 2016 was against the terrible Kings, and the home-ground advantage is the Stormers’ biggest trump card. It seems this contest will come down to the Chiefs’ sizzling attack against the Stormers’ rugged defence, but the presence of world-class performers Cruden, Retallick, Cane, Kerr-Barlow and McKenzie should be enough to get the visitors over the line and into the semis.
The Way It’s Shaping
Chiefs by 9
Chiefs -3.5 ($1.90)
Chiefs by 6-10 ($5.00)