Realising that the Stormers will still be frustrated from failing to beat the Crusaders when they had more than enough chances to do so, Smith is aware they will be throwing all they have at the defending champions in order to register a vital win on tour.
“They deserved to win that game [against the Crusaders]. “They were really strong one-on-one, their defence was really good and their pack were very efficient with their rolling maul from lineouts.
“Flank Schalk Burger was absolutely outstanding for them. “One thing we have noticed when they come on tour to New Zealand, the Stormers get a bit more expansive and [move] away from that attritional style of game they play at home.
“They have talented backs with Jean de Villiers, and Gio Aplon is dangerous and Damian de Allende looks really good at inside centre.
“They offer a real threat to us,” Smith told Sportal. However, the Stormers have only scored three tries so far this season, with one apiece in their loss the the Lions (10-34), close win over the Hurricanes (19-18) and last week’s reverse at the hands of the Crusaders (13-14), and are averaging just 14 points per game.
Smith said while it was nice to be unbeaten after four rounds of Super Rugby, the exciting factor for the Chiefs was there was still plenty of room for improvement. They have beaten the Crusaders (18-10) and Highlanders (21-19) so far, and had their bye last weekend. “It’s exciting because we have so much still to improve,” Smith said as his side prepares for Friday’s game.
Among the aspects of play the Chiefs need to improve is their supply of ball from lineouts, and their overall ball retention. They have been putting themselves under pressure by not mastering these features while they also need better discipline.
“We need a bigger share of the ball in order to create more attacking play,” Smith said.
The Chiefs are slowly moving towards having their full squad available for selection. At this stage it is only likely to be centre Bundee Aki and outside back Robbie Robinson who will not be available for the three-game tour to Australia and South Africa, while Robinson is looking unlikely to feature at all this season.
Lock Brodie Retallick and prop Ben Afeaki, who were both out after their head clash in the opening game against the Crusaders, are likely to be available this week while utility backs Tom Marshall and Gareth Anscombe are close to being ready for action, as is flank Sam Cane.
The numbers were up when they re-assembled on Monday and there was a ‘pretty vibrant’ air about the place, according to Smith.
Smith is pleased with the character his side has showed to win their two matches so far, even when they were not at their best.
The versatility the selectors have developed, in the backs especially, has proved its worth in light of the injury situation and Smith said while there were utility players in the side, each of them had the ability to play in specialist positions.
He cited the example of Tim Nanai-Williams who could specialise at fullback, wing or centre, and he said having to use halfback Augustine Pulu on the wing in a pre-season game due to the injuries, had created another position covered should the situation arise.
“If we hadn’t selected like that we would have been in trouble [with injuries],” Smith said. There is the extra advantage of competition being created for places in the side as a result.
Smith said initial impressions of the 2014 Super Rugby season was that it was going to be a topsy-turvy affair and he wasn’t buying into the scenario where early losses knocked teams out of play-offs chances.
“We lost five early games in 1998 and came back and won it [with the Crusaders] so there is a chance the critics could end up with egg on their faces. It is going to be pretty tight,” Smith added.