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Super Rugby: Crusaders v Stormers preview
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The Crusaders host the Stormers in Christchurch on Saturday with both sides already under pressure early in the Super Rugby season.
Both have made underwhelming starts to the season. The Crusaders have lost twice, while the Stormers are yet to convince as genuine contenders for the title despite one win from their two fixtures.
Although the Crusaders are at the bottom of the Super Rugby table and despite the loss of All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, who is out of action for eight weeks with a broken thumb, it's still early in the competition and the seven-times champions are notoriously slow starters.
But they are determined to get their 2014 show on the road and the Christchurch-based outfit's assistant coach Dave Hewett said the manner in which the Crusaders gave up a convincing lead in last weekend's loss to the Blues was thoroughly unlike a team which has won seven championships.
He said the Crusaders' coaches and players were trying to respond calmly to the failures that performance has highlighted.
"Yes, you can get angry and we are angry and they (the players) are angry," explained Hewett.
"They are all angry with themselves and they are angry with their performance."
The Crusaders hold the historical edge over the Stormers having won 14 of the previous 18 matches between these two franchises. Adding to that, they have never lost to the Stormers in Christchurch which makes the visitors' task more daunting.
The Stormers didn't overly impress in their 19-18 victory over the Hurricanes in Cape Town and know they have to deliver a much-improved performance if they want to change their dismal record in Christchurch.
Apart from their poor form in Christchurch, South African teams in general have failed to inspire against the Crusaders since 1996. Out of the 44 matches hosted by the Crusaders against teams from South Africa, they've lost twice and drawn twice.
That equates to a staggering 91 per cent winning rate, which is by far the best of any team against foreign opposition. The average score between the Crusaders and South African opposition over this period is 37-19, with the New Zealanders scoring four tries to two on average.
Stormers captain Jean de Villers knows that a victory this weekend will be a big boost for his side on their overseas tour, which also includes games against the Chiefs, Brumbies and Reds, who, like the Crusaders, have all won the tournament already.
The men from the Cape suffered a shock defeat to the Lions in their opener before their narrow win over the Hurricanes. An area of concern is their back-line play which has lacked imagination at the best of times.
Despite that, they possess potent attackers in De Villiers, Gio Aplon and Jaco Taute, who could swing the course of a match with moments of brilliance. They also know that the Crusaders' poor start to the season presents them with an ideal opportunity to break their duck in Christchurch.
Crusaders: 15 Slade, 14 McNicholl, 13 Lee-Lo, 12 Crotty, 11 Dagg, 10 Taylor, 9 Heinz; 1 Crockett, 2 Flynn, 3 Franks, 4 Romano, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 6 Luke Whitelock, 7 Todd, 8 Read (capt)
Replacements: 16 Funnell, 17 Perry, 18 Laulala, 19 Bird, 20 Taufua, 21 Ellis, 22 Bleyendaal, 23 Fonotia
Stormers: 15 Taute, 14 Van Wyk, 13 De Villiers (capt), 12 De Allende, 11 Aplon, 10 Catrakilis, 9 Groom; 1 Kitshoff, 2 Ntubeni, 3 Malherbe, 4 Rhodes, 5 Steenkamp, 6 Fourie, 7 Burger, 8 Vermeulen
Replacements: 16 Liebenberg, 17 Kebble, 18 Cilliers, 19 Botha, 20 Carr, 21 Schreuder, 22 Grant, 23 Tagicakibau
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|Friday 27th March|
|06:35||Hurricanes vs Melbourne Rebels|
|09:00||Reds vs Lions|
|Saturday 28th March|
|05:30||Chiefs vs Cheetahs|
|06:35||Highlanders vs Stormers|
|08:40||Waratahs vs Blues|
|15:05||Sharks vs Western Force|
|17:10||Bulls vs Crusaders|
|Friday 3rd April|
|07:35||Hurricanes vs Stormers|
|09:40||Melbourne Rebels vs Reds|
|Saturday 4th April|
|07:35||Chiefs vs Blues|
|09:40||Brumbies vs Cheetahs|
|14:00||Sharks vs Crusaders|
|16:05||Lions vs Bulls|
|Friday 10th April|
|08:35||Blues vs Brumbies|
|Saturday 11th April|
|08:35||Crusaders vs Highlanders|
|10:40||Waratahs vs Stormers|
|12:45||Western Force vs Cheetahs|
|14:00||Bulls vs Reds|
|16:05||Lions vs Sharks|
|Friday 17th April|
|08:35||Crusaders vs Chiefs|
|Saturday 18th April|
|05:30||Hurricanes vs Waratahs|
|08:35||Highlanders vs Blues|
|10:40||Brumbies vs Melbourne Rebels|
|12:45||Western Force vs Stormers|
|16:05||Sharks vs Bulls|
|Sunday 22nd March|
|Waratahs 28 - 13 Brumbies|
|Saturday 21st March|
|Sharks 12 - 11 Chiefs|
|Bulls 25 - 24 Western Force|
|Crusaders 57 - 14 Cheetahs|
|Friday 20th March|
|Melbourne Rebels 16 - 20 Lions|
|Highlanders 13 - 20 Hurricanes|
|Saturday 14th March|
|Cheetahs 10 - 27 Sharks|
|Stormers 19 - 28 Chiefs|
|Reds 0 - 29 Brumbies|
|Highlanders 26 - 19 Waratahs|
|Crusaders 34 - 6 Lions|
|Friday 13th March|
|Western Force 17 - 21 Melbourne Rebels|
|Hurricanes 30 - 23 Blues|
|Saturday 7th March|
|Stormers 29 - 13 Sharks|
|Cheetahs 20 - 39 Bulls|
|Reds 5 - 23 Waratahs|
|Blues 10 - 13 Lions|
|Friday 6th March|
|Brumbies 27 - 15 Western Force|
|Chiefs 17 - 20 Highlanders|
|Saturday 28th February|
|Lions 19 - 22 Stormers|
|Bulls 43 - 35 Sharks|
|Melbourne Rebels 15 - 20 Brumbies|
|Chiefs 40 - 16 Crusaders|
|Friday 27th February|
|Cheetahs 25 - 24 Blues|
|Western Force 13 - 42 Hurricanes|
Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com