Kieran Read (C) of the Canterbury Crusaders catches the ball next to Eben Etzebeth of the Western Stormers during the Super Rugby match between New Zealand’s Canterbury Crusaders and South Africa’s Western Stormers at AMI Stadium in Christchurch on April 22, 2017.
Image by: MARTIN HUNTER / AFP

Highlanders assistant coach and former All Black hooker Mark Hammett has dismissed the heavy defeat the Stormers suffered against the Crusaders last week as his side prepares to meet Robbie Fleck’s men in Dunedin on Friday.

The Stormers went down 57-24 against a rampant Crusaders in Christchurch.

They were 36-3 down at the break but managed to score three tries after halftime to add a tiny pinch of respectability to a score that threatened to blow out over the 70-point mark at one stage.

The Stormers won their opening six matches of the tournament‚ including an impressive 34-26 victory over the Chiefs at Newlands.

Since then though‚ they have lost 29-16 at home against the Lions before last week’s debacle in Christchurch.

This Friday’s clash will be a test of whether the wheels are coming off the Stormers’ campaign.

“They [Stormers] turned some ball over where they normally wouldn’t particularly inside the Crusaders’ 22 metre area‚ so it probably could have been a different sort of game‚” Hammett told allblacks.com.

“The Crusaders got a couple of intercept tries‚ so we’re not looking so much at that game but more at what they’ve (the Stormers) done in the past.

“They’ve been very strong‚ they’re a dominant‚ hard-carrying team and they are a team that maybe slightly different from some of the African teams as they really try and attack hard out of their 22 at times.”

Fleck said that the Highlanders’ approach won’t differ much from the Crusaders‚ although the former are less of a set-piece team than the men from Christchurch.

The Highlanders beat the Sunwolves 40-15 last week and appear to be finding their best form after a slow start to the season – which is bad news for the Stormers.

“The Highlanders performance last week was typical from a Kiwi side‚” Fleck said.

“They are a little different to the Crusaders‚ who have a massive set-piece loaded with All Blacks. “Our set-piece was excellent against that Crusaders pack.

“You need to be strong up front but the key now is to match the intensity and tempo they (the Highlanders) will play at over 80 minutes.

“We have never faced the type of line speed like the Crusaders presented last weekend.

“They put us under intense pressure and knocked us back and it’s something we will face again on this tour.”

With captain Siya Kolisi set to return after sitting out last week due to Springbok resting protocols‚ Fleck is hoping for a strong platform from his pack.

He singled out locks Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit for praise after last weekend.

Etzebeth captained the side in Kolisi’s absence. “Eben was outstanding as a leader last week‚ and made good decisions‚” Fleck said.

“He has great presence and has the respect of his peers. “Pieter-Steph was also excellent and they both stood up when they needed to.

“When times were tough‚ Eben really stood up and took ownership of the leadership.”

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