Preview: Lions v Stormers

Date published: February 27 2015

With nothing to show for their efforts this season thus far the Lions will be desperate to record their first victory when they host the Stormers in Johannesburg on Saturday.

While this desperation is highlighted in the wholesale changes coach Johan Ackermann made to his team, his decision to leave his first choice fly-half out of his match day 23 shows that no stone has been left unturned as the team looks to rectify certain inefficiencies that were revealed in the opening two rounds.

In contrast, the Stormers have enjoyed a solid start to the season and have back-to-back victories to show for their efforts.
Although never exempt from criticism, the one aspect of the Cape Town squad’s game that stood out in their triumphs over the Bulls and Blues is that they do possess the mental edge to grind-out wins at all cost.

For the Lions this match presents an opportunity to gain some momentum ahead of what should be a tough time on the road while the Stormers may well feel that, if they play their cards right, they should be able to collect the full complement of five points against a side that often leaves space out wide because of their expansive style of play.

Allister Coetzee’s men have won 12 of their last 13 matches against the Lions, but more importantly, they have also know that when they have won their first three matches on a trot – as was the case in 2011 and 2012 – they have extended that run to six wins before suffering their first defeat.

While a lot has been made of the Lions’ strength at set-phase, the Stormers are one of only two sides this season that have not lost one of their own scrums.

Coetzee would, however, not allow complacency to become a factor this early in the season.

"From our side we are looking for continuous improvement in our play. Yes, we have won two matches but we are not fully satisfied and know that we can get better – and must get better – if we are to build on our start," he said.

"We need to front up and need all of our key men to be at their best for what will be a very challenging match."

Ackermann, in turn, made very little effort to hide his disappointment that led to the mass changes he made ahead of the contest.

“We had to be honest with ourselves this week and there were some harsh words said," Ackermann said.

"We weren't happy with our performance [against the Sharks], but we need to trust what we put in place and address issues as a collective group, not as individuals. We simply have to improve this week."

The last time these team met: Damien de Allende and Nizaam Carr both scored tries as the Stormers recorded an 18-3 victory at home against in what was only their second win in eight games – the victory ended a five-match losing streak and lifted the Cape Town squad from the bottom of the standings.

Players to watch: Leading by example is his thing and most sides know that if they are able to naturalise Duane Vermeulen victory becomes a possibility. Nizaam Carr, however, will have an important role to play as he will be up against Jaco Kriel who missed last week’s match through injury. Kriel provides a lot of spark to the Lions who will be hoping the introduction of Faf de Klerk at scrum-half will do the same.  

Team news: The Lions have decided to give Elton Jantjies a run at fly-half in one of eight changes to the run-on side. He is joined in the team by De Klerk in an all new half-back pairing. Other changes includes an all new front-row while Kriel replaces Derrick Minnie at the side of the scrum. The Stormers made just two changes from with Carr replacing the injured Rynhardt Elstadt and hooker Bongi Mbonambi earning his first start ahead of Scarra Ntubeni.

Form: While the Lions have shown their intent is to retain possession for as long as possible, their finishing has left much to desire. Defensively they have not worked together as a unit while in the case of the Stormers there has been far more structure in that department. From their opening round triumph over the Bulls, to a hard-fought victory over the Blues, the one stand-out trait of the Stormers game has been their ability to play the situation.

Predictions: Although it would not be considered an upset if the Lions do manage to get it right by beating the conference leaders, a victory does seem a bit unlikely at this stage. The Stormers should win by at least 8 points.

Previous results:
2014: Stormers won 18-3 in Cape Town
2014: Lions won 34-10 in Johannesburg
2012: Stormers 27-17 in Cape Town
2012: Stormers won 24-19 in Johannesburg
2011: Stormers won 33-18 in Johannesburg

The teams:

Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Sampie Mastriet, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Martin Muller, 4 Franco Mostert, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Replacements:16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Robert Kruger, 20 Derick Minnie, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Jaco van der Walt, 23 Howard Mnisi.

Stormers: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Johnny Kotze, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen (captain), 7 Michael Rhodes, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Jurie van Vuuren, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements:16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17  Oli Kebble, 18  Frans Malherbe, 19 Manuel Carizza, 20  Siya Kolisi, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Huw Jones

Date:Saturday, February 28
Venue:Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Kick-off:  19:10 local (17:10 GMT)
Referee: Andrew Lees
Assistant referees:Quinton Immelman, Stephan Geldenhuys
TMO:Marius Jonker