Preview: Lions v Stormers

Date published: April 15 2016

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A mouth-watering South African derby will wrap up Round Eight of Super Rugby as the Lions play host to the Stormers at Ellis Park on Saturday.

Both are flying high in their respective groups after hugely positive starts to their Super Rugby campaigns, with attractive rugby on show.

Currie Cup followers will have noted the Lions' steady improvement under Johan Ackermann and won't be overly surprised to see them at the summit of Africa Two, their most recent win at the Sharks a further statement of intent that they're pushing to be top dogs in South Africa.

Depth in their squad is apparent while in Elton Jantjies they have a fly-half full of confidence. Ruan Combrinck is another in fine form.

This is a new Lions side so they won't be concerned by the fact in their thirteen meetings with the Stormers, the Capetonians have won on eleven occasions and the Lions just once. In fact they have only beaten the Stormers that one time since 2001, which is a real dry spell.

Robbie Fleck's side are not without their own praise and deserve plenty of it for the brand of rugby they are playing. Their most recent plus point was the debut of fly-half Jean-Luc du Plessis, with his personal battle with Jantjies set to be one to watch in Johannesburg.

The Stormers will, however, miss the linking work of busy hooker Scarra Ntubeni and the presence of lock Eben Etzebeth, which is why the Lions enter this match as favourites with the bookmakers.

Whoever wins, we expect a refreshingly open South African derby at Ellis Park as players look to catch the eye of new Springbok head coach Allister Coetzee.

The last time these teams met: It came in Round 17 of last season in a game that finished 19-19, a fixture that despite its low scoreline, saw six tries scored on the night. Nic Groom, Dillyn Leyds and Nizaam Carr would cross for the Stormers while Faf de Klerk, Schalk van der Merwe and Malcolm Marx responded for the Lions in Cape Town. The Stormers missed a conversion, two penalties and also a drop-goal attempt.

Players to watch: A big part of the Lions success so far this year has been the form of fly-half Elton Jantjies, who is playing some very solid and intelligent rugby. He is fixing defenders beautifully, striking the ball well and because of this there are growing calls for a possible Springbok jersey later in the year. We are also enjoying the form of hulking Lions hooker Malcolm Marx, who has a bright future.

After scoring two tries last weekend against the Sunwolves, flanker Sikhumbuzo Notshe will come up against a tougher test this weekend as he takes on the likes of Lions duo Warwick Tecklenburg and Jaco Kriel. However, he should cause the hosts problems himself, with his pace off the mark evident this season. Notshe is one of an impressive group of young Stormers back-rowers flourishing alongside Schalk Burger.

Team news: Lions head coach Johan Ackermann has named the exact same matchday 23 that defeated the Sharks for Saturday's game. Jaco Kriel is included in the starting side despite taking a knock to his arm, with the flanker due a have fitness test on Friday ahead of the match.

Robbie Fleck has made four changes to his Stormers' line-up. Two of the changes are rotational, with loosehead prop JC Janse van Rensburg trading places with Oli Kebble who starts on the replacements bench, whilst in the loose trio Nizaam Carr returns to the side at openside flank and Siya Kolisi is named amongst the replacements. Scrum-half Nic Groom returns from a minor knee injury that kept him out of action against the Sunwolves, and hooker Bongi Mbonambi gets another chance to start as Scarra Ntubeni has been ruled out with a hamstring niggle.

Form: The Lions bounced back from their Round Six loss at home to the Crusaders with a win on the road at the Sharks last week, which put them top of the Africa Two group. They have an overall record of four wins and two defeats this season and sit five points off the Stormers.

Speaking of the Capetonians, they are on 23 points after suffering just one defeat so far in 2016. Their latest win was a comfortable one against the Sunwolves, which followed victory at the Jaguares and a home triumph over the Brumbies. They are South Africa's pace-setters.

Prediction: While the Stormers looked impressive last weekend, this is a big step up and the hosts should have enough to win. Lions by five.

Previous results:

2015: 19-19 draw in Cape Town
2015: Stormers won 22-19 in Johannesburg
2014: Stormers won 18-3 Cape Town
2014: Lions won 34-10 in Johannesburg
2012: Stormers won 27-17 in Cape Town
2012: Stormers won 24-19 in Johannesburg

The teams:

Lions: 15 Jaco van der Walt, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylon Smith
Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Ruan Ackermann, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Andries Coetzee

Stormers: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Juan de Jongh (cc), 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Schalk Burger, 7 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 JD Schickerling, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg
Replacements: 16 Mike Willemse, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Frans Malherbe (cc), 19 Rynhardt Elstadt, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Damian de Allende, 23 Huw Jones

Date: Saturday, April 16
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Kick-off: 19:15 local (17:15 GMT)
Referee: Stuart Berry
Assistant Referees: Lourens van der Merwe, Cwengile Jadezweni
TMO: Willie Vos

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