Stormers aim to further rain on Connacht’s parade as Pete Wilkins warns of threat

After humiliation at the hands of one of her Irish rivals, Connacht would not have wanted to board a long-haul flight to South Africa and have a truncated week to prepare for the URC champion.

The news coming out of the squad will obviously be a lot more positive but internally they know the start of the season isn’t going to be much tougher.

The Stormers may be without their Springbok contingent, but they still pose a major threat as they attempt to get their title defense off to a flying start in front of their home crowd.

The good news for Connacht is that they have plenty of room for improvement after underperforming drastically in last weekend’s defeat by Ulster.

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Despite the many trips and the crowded nature of the week, one suspects that there will be a great response from Andy Friend’s men.

The return of Finlay Bealham and Cian Prendergast to the pack will increase their chances of an upset, while friend and head coach Pete Wilkins has opted to keep Bundee Aki in reserve.

Aki will later impress off the bench, but the challenge for Connacht is to ensure they’re still fully in the game when their talismanic center is introduced.

Fresh off his stellar season last year, Evan Roos is a big threat for the Stormers. Connacht needs a big step forward in terms of their defensive work, especially when it comes to stopping Roos on the payline.

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Wilkins is certainly prepared for the inevitable onslaught that awaits him in Stellenbosch this afternoon.

“Obviously like all South Africans, the Stormers will bring massive physicality as we know,” Wilkins warned.

“They’re an offensive team and a defensive team and we’ve identified a few opportunities to pursue them, things that fit our playstyle and we think we can bring some entry points into the game.

“I think it will be an exciting game; two teams that have pretty exciting backlines and fighting up front will obviously earn the right to who has the right to take those shots.

There’s no question Connacht’s backline, which includes the returning Mack Hansen, has the firepower to hurt the Stormers, but unless their pack finds fire, they could be in for another hard hit.

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Verdict: striker

striker – C Blommetjies; A Davids, S Hartzenberg, D du Plessis, S Senatla; M Libbok, P de Wet; A Vermaak, AH Venter, B Harris; E van Rhyn (Captain), M Orie; J. Pokomela, H. Dayimani, E. Roos. repetitions: Solomon C, Blose K, Fouche N, Smith A, Theunissen M, Engelbrecht W, Masimla G, Mngomezulu S.

Connacht – O McNulty; J Porch, B Ralston, T Farrell, M Hansen; Fitzgerald C, Blade C, Buckley D, Tierney-Martin D, Bealham F; J Murphy, N Murray; C Prendergast, J Butler (Captain), P Boyle. repetitions: Heffernan D, Dooley P, Aungier J, Dowling O, Hurley-Langton S, Marmion K, Aki B, Hawkshaw D.

REF- G Gnecchi (Italy)

Stormers vs. Connacht
Live, RTE2 & Premier Sports, 1.30pm

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