The expected return of key players at the Western Force and a revival at the Reds means that the Stormers have a tougher tour of Australia and New Zealand than was originally expected.
Stephen Nell reports from Cape Town that the Stormers put their home advantage in the first five of their six games in the Super 14 campaign to good use, but realise things will not be getting any easier.
“We divided our campaign into two phases. The first phase has been completed and we had a meeting about the tour on Tuesday morning,” said Stormers lock Andries Bekker.
“We are on track with our planning. Now we just have to work harder. We slipped up in one of the five home games that we wanted to win.”
The Stormers have already started preparing for their Good Friday (2 April) clash against the Force.
They expect the Australian side to have Wallabies such as flanker David Pocock, utility back Cameron Shepherd and tighthead prop Matt Dunning back.
However, the Stormers have to target that game for a victory overseas.
After that they travel to Auckland for a match against the Blues and the following weekend play the Chiefs in Hamilton.
The Blues showed last week against the Brumbies what they are capable of if their backline gets going.
Apart from the emerging talent of Rene Ranger, experienced All Black wing Joe Rokocoko is also regaining his best form.
The difficulty level of the clash against the Blues may be determined by how the Kiwi side fares in its next two games against the Waratahs in Sydney and Bulls in Auckland.
If the Blues’ wheels come off against both those opponents, their campaign will have suffered a major blow by the time they play the Stormers.
The Stormers finish off their tour against the Reds in Brisbane on April 23. It’s that game that probably made the tour look a fairly easy one prior to the start of the competition, but coach Ewen McKenzie appears to have engineered a turnaround in the Reds’ fortunes and they may well be the surprise package among the semi-final contenders.
There will also be no rest for the Stormers on their return to South Africa and they play the Crusaders on April 30 on their first weekend back.
After that the Sharks lie in wait in Durban and they finish off with the big north-south derby against the Bulls at Newlands.
Even if the Stormers have home advantage, it will be a tough challenge to play the Crusaders the first weekend after a tour.Tweet