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Stormers, Lions battle for Super Rugby supremacy in South Africa

April 13, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

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The Western Stormers square off against the Golden Lions in a blockbuster South African derby while Crusaders prop Wyatt Crockett sets a match record in Super Rugby this weekend.

Stormers

The Canterbury Crusaders and Stormers are the only unbeaten sides remaining going into round eight of the competition, which next year will revert to a 15-team format from its current 18.

The fallout from governing body SANZAAR’s announcement to axe three teams — two from South Africa and one from Australia — has dominated the past week.

Threatened franchise Western Force have launched legal action against Australian rugby chiefs.

Seven-times champion Crusaders ease back into the fray following a bye by hosting the Sunwolves who won their first match of the season last week.

All Blacks captain Kieran Read is back for his first outing of the season having recovered from wrist surgery.

And the match will be a significant milestone for fellow All Black Crockett as he makes a record 176th appearance in Super Rugby.

The 34-year-old will overtake former All Black Keven Mealamu’s record of 175.

SANZAAR chief Andy Marinos described Crockett’s record as “a tremendous achievement for a player who is at the coal face of one of the hardest and most competitive rugby competitions in the world”.

The Crusaders feel comfortable enough to make a raft of changes to the side that beat the Waratahs a fortnight ago. Just five players of their 23 remain in the same position

In the showdown between the top two South African sides, the Stormers are brimming with confidence after inflicting the first loss of the season on the Waikato Chiefs last week while the Lions are coming off a bye.

Lions coach Johan Ackermann believes the week off came at the right time as it allowed several key players including Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Ruan Ackermann, and Elton Jantjies to get over niggling injuries.

The Stormers “are the team to beat in South Africa and it’s going to take something special to get the better of them at Newlands,” Ackermann said.

“They’re playing an exciting brand of rugby and their skill levels are extremely high so it’s going to be a huge challenge going there.”

The Stormers, though, have injury woes after the punishing outing against the Chiefs with flanker Cobus Wiese and locks Pieter-Steph du Toit and Eben Etzebeth unable to train early in the week.

They are also in a tough sequence of matches with home games against the Chiefs and Lions to be followed by a trip to New Zealand to face the Crusaders, Otago Highlanders and Wellington Hurricanes.

The Chiefs, looking to get their season back on track, are in Bloemfontein to face a Central Cheetahs side desperate to prove they deserve to survive the Super Rugby culling process.

“These are challenging and uncertain times,” the Cheetahs said in a statement this week.

“We strongly believe that through an honest and fair process we stand a strong chance of retaining our Super Rugby status.”

The defending champion Wellington Hurricanes are in Auckland to face a Blues side which has Sonny Bill Williams starting in a new unique jersey which does not feature the logo of team sponsor Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) to conform with his Muslim beliefs.

But Williams has agreed to wear, instead, the logo of child health service Plunket whose principal sponsor is the BNZ.

In the remaining matches, top Australian side ACT Brumbies play the struggling Melbourne Rebels, who along with Western Force are under threat of being kicked out of the 2018 competition.

Elsewhere, the Queensland Reds are at home to the Southern Kings and the Northern Bulls return to South Africa after an unsuccessful road trip to host the Jaguares.

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