Super Rugby 2017: Highlanders v Stormers

Super-Rugby-2017-Highlanders-vStormers-preview

Shaun Goosen fancies an upset when the Highlanders take on the Stormers this coming Friday.

The hosts come off the back of a pretty routine victory over the Sunwolves in Week 9, but should be wary of complacency against a Stormers outfit that has shown vast improvement under Robbie Fleck this season. The Highlanders sit fourth in the New Zealand Conference on 23-points, yet are still among the Australasian qualifying places vying for a play-off berth. Sitting ten points behind the Hurricanes and Chiefs, they are unlikely to catch them up after their slow start to 2017, but a second consecutive home win will give Tony Brown’s boys some kind of momentum going into the second-half of the season. Last week’s 57-24 demolition in Christchurch was the Stormers’ worst performance to date this year, but they will believe that they can bounce back and potentially cause an upset in Dunedin this Friday.

Highlanders v Stormers | Friday 28 April | Forsyth Barr Stadium | 09:35

To Win (80 Mins)
Highlanders 1/8 | Draw 28/1 | Stormers 4/1
Handicap
Highlanders (-14.5) 9/10 | Stormers (+14.5) 9/10


Highlanders

Despite managing a relatively comfortable 40-15 score against the Sunwolves last week, the Highlanders will not be overly impressed with their victory. Perhaps some complacency had set in, but three first-half scores, and zero in the final ten minutes, should not be considered good enough for a side with such pedigree. On top of that, they also allowed the Japanese franchise two extremely soft five-pointers of their own, with several missed tackles making for a very meagre overall performance.

Tony Brown will realise that this weekend’s showdown with the Stormers will present a different challenge entirely and that slipping off tackles against the likes of Eben Etzebeth and co. will result in more than just a couple of tries being conceded this time around. A much sharper display is required on Friday, and senior players of the likes of Aaron Smith, Malakai Fekitoa and Ben Smith need to set the tone from the backs, and really go for the jugular through the attacking prowess we’ve come to expect from them over the years.

As fantastic as Liam Squire has been in 2017, Matt Faddes has been utterly irrepressible. The centre bagged two tries against the Sunwolves (one coming from a spectacular running line), and you’ve really got to feel for a man that has the likes of Anton Lienert-Brown, Ryan Crotty, Seta Tamanivalu and Fekitoa ahead of him in the All Blacks pecking order – indeed, he’d walk into the current Springbok starting XV any day.



Stormers

Going down to the Crusaders in Christchurch is never an embarrassment, but the manner in which the Stormers succumbed last weekend would have hurt not just the players themselves, but South African rugby supporters in general. For a while, it did seem as though the Stormers were the real deal, but consecutive losses to the Lions and then the 'Saders proved that perception to be nothing more than a fallacy. This current crop is certainly very good - perhaps only second-best to the Lions in SA terms - but they clearly still lack the all-round game to match the very best.

Not that we should be too hard on the men from Cape Town. They have come a long way in a very short space of time, and will be all the readier to properly challenge for the title next season - this one may have come slightly too early for this bunch. This weekend, they face a Highlanders outfit that has been rather mediocre this term, and Fleck's men will back themselves to make up for last week's embarrassment. An emphasis would have been placed on their defence this week but, should they manage to improve in this regard, they will certainly push the 'Landers close in Dunedin this weekend.

Verdict: Stormers (+14.5) 9/10
I'm going for an upset, and will back the Capetonians to bounce back with a win this weekend. They may catch the 'Landers unawares with their new-found attacking philosophy, and an improved defensive showing will see them in with more than just a shout at the Forsyth Barr. The Highlanders have been susceptible to lapses in concentration in parts of their games this season, and a side like the Stormers has the firepower to make them pay if any arise on Friday. The safe play here is to have a decent strike on plus handicap and a smaller strike on the Stormers win. 

Written by Shaun Goosen for @Hollywoodbets.net!

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