Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Stormers fully aware of threat posed by All Blacks star in Benetton team

The Stormers will be hoping to bounce back from a first defeat of the season when they take on the Italian team on Saturday.

New Benetton centre Malakai Fekitoa is one of the main danger men that the Stormers have highlighted when the sides meet in their United Rugby Championship (URC) clash in Italy on Saturday afternoon (5pm).

Fekitoa is a former World Cup winner with the All Blacks, played for Tonga at this year’s World Cup and has arrived at Benetton after helping his former side Munster triumph in last season’s URC.

He enjoyed a strong debut in the second game week against his former side to help his new team impressively draw 13-all against the defending champs, and followed that up with another solid performance against the Lions last weekend, scoring his first try to help them clinch a 15-10 win.

Influence on team

Stormers assistant coach Labeeb Levy is well aware of the threat that Fekitoa brings and says that the team will be ready for him.

“He comes with a wealth of experience and won the URC. He’s also won a few Rugby Championships. What you find with experienced players like that, it’s not only them that is the threat, but it’s how they allow the people around them to play,” explained Levy.

“You can see that people are excited to play alongside him. He was an All Black and is an international. I could see when he scored that try, he was quite vociferous and excited.

“He will be a danger man, but we are also focused on four or five players, guys who are their playmakers.

“We have built our plans around that and put a good focus on our own game this week, instead of just focusing on what Benetton are going to bring.”

First loss

The Stormers head into the match off their first loss of the season and they will be eager to bounce back with a good win to get themselves back on track.

After opening their campaign with a 35-33 win over the Lions in Johannesburg, they thrashed Scarlets 52-7 in Stellenbosch, but then lost their first tour match 20-9 against Glasgow Warriors in Scotland over the past weekend.

Levy admitted that the tough, wet conditions contributed to a more subdued performance from the Stormers as they struggled at the set pieces and were unable to get their usual running game going.

“We had some set piece challenges in the lineout early on, especially when we could have had some good launches, and then the scrums were inconsistent from our perspective, but obviously, we had to adapt,” said Levy.

“Against the Scarlets, we had 29 offloads and against Glasgow, we had five. Last week we had around 150 passes and against Glasgow we didn’t even hit the 100 mark, so it wasn’t that type of game.

“Playing on that (4G) pitch brings different challenges, but upon review, from the physicality perspective on defence, the ball carries and pushing each other through contact, those boxes were ticked.”

With some drier weather on the cards for their game against Benetton the Stormers will be looking to improve on those numbers this weekend.

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