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By asaif6270 | Friday, February 28, 2014, 16:01

AS ODD as it sounds, the Stormers' Super Rugby round two match against the Hurricanes at Newlands on Friday could already be the crossroads of their season.

The Stormers were poor in their 34-10 loss to the Lions on Saturday, and their problems have been compounded by injuries to lock Manuel Carizza and flank Schalk Burger. Both will probably miss the match due to a back problem and a groin strain respectively.Flank Siya Kolisi (shoulder) and hooker Scarra Ntubeni (ankle) are also on the doubtful list.

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A small positive for Stormers coach Allister Coetzee is that lock De Kock Steenkamp returns to full training on Tuesday and will be available against the Hurricanes. It's a timely return after Carizza's setback.

Fullback Jaco Taute is also in line for selection, al though it's unlikely he will start.

Injuries aside, the Stormers' real problems could start the following week when they begin a tough Australasian tour against the Crusaders in Christchurch.

They follow that with a clash against the defending champions Chiefs and after that it is on to Australia, where they play the Brumbies and Reds.

If they don't beat the Hurricanes and leave with some momentum, the tour could unravel very quickly. It's not inconceivable that by the time they return to South Africa, the Stormers could be 0-6 unless there is a dramatic turnaround this weekend.

The Stormers were flat and suffered from their consistent Achilles heel — the inability to come from behind. Over the past four years they have been wonderful frontrunners, but they struggle to chase a game once they have fallen behind through a combination of panic and poor decision making.

If they don't find form on Friday, discovering it in Christchurch and Hamilton will be near impossible.

On paper the Stormers should feel confident against a Hurricanes team that suffered a 27-9 loss to the Sharks last Saturday.

But the 18-point margin flattered the Sharks and there were only seven points in it when wing Lwazi Mvovo scored an intercept try to break the game open 15 minutes from time.

Hurricanes coach Mark Hammett was upbeat after the game, despite the result. He was especially pleased with how his pack, which was dominated by the Sharks in the first half, fought back and enjoyed parity in the second period.

"We played pretty well for an early season match," Hammett said. "We knew the Sharks would come at us with their pack, especially in the scrums, but we soaked up the pressure well and came back at them.

"Our defence and discipline in general was pretty good. We pressured them into kicking, perhaps even more than they had planned.

"Our preseason was against other New Zealand teams and the forward challenge is different when you play South African teams. We adapted well technically against the Sharks and we're in better shape heading to Cape Town to play the Stormers. There are similarities and differences between the Stormers and Sharks, but I can't give too much away. Besides their game against the Lions, we've seen tapes of the Stormers' warm-up games. We have ways of getting them."

That should be an ominous warning to the Stormers at such a crucial juncture.



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