There should be plenty of thrilling action when South African Group frontrunners the Stormers and Lions face off in Cape Town on Saturday.
Both sides are known for playing an exciting brand of rugby, so this should be an entertaining tussle.
The Stormers are currently in red-hot form, having won all six their matches thus far this season, including last Saturday’s impressive 34-26 home triumph over the Chiefs.
On Saturday they face another huge challenge in the form of the Lions, who are well rested following their bye from the previous round. The Lions have won five of their last six games, including each of their last three in a row, scoring an average of 38 points per game across that six-game stretch.
The 2016 losing finalists from the Highveld are very close to their exciting best of last season and Stormers head coach Robbie Fleck said his team face another serious test against the Lions, which makes for a mouth-watering South African derby.
“The support we got last week at Newlands was simply phenomenal and we would love to see people turn out in their numbers to support us again,” he said.
“The players have worked hard again this week and we know that we will have to be as sharp as ever if we are to maintain our winning momentum.”
The last time these teams played in Cape Town, in 2015, the score was 19-19 and another close contest could be on the cards this weekend.
The Lions are undefeated in their last two games against the Stormers – one win and that draw – after having won just one of the previous 12 encounters between these teams, losing 11.
They have continued where they left off in 2016 – when they lost in the final to the Hurricanes – although things are set to change at the end of the season when their head coach Johan Ackermann leaves to coach Premiership side Gloucester.
Ackermann is determined to go out on a high and ending the Stormers’ winning run will be a statement of intent in the tournament from the men from Johannesburg.
The last time the teams met: These sides met at exactly the same stage of the tournament last year and the Lions claimed a hard-fought 29-22 victory in Johannesburg. The home side led 16-12 at half-time and kicked on after the interval. Ruan Combrinck and Faf de Klerk scored the Lions’ tries and Elton Jantjies kicked 19 points via four penalties, two conversions and a drop goal. For the Stormers, Siya Kolisi dotted down and Jean-Luc du Plessis finished with a 17-point haul courtesy of five penalties and a conversion.
Players to watch: If the Stormers are to be successful, much will depend on the performance of their new captain Siya Kolisi. The Springbok flanker has impressed in the leadership role and was one of the standout players in his side’s win over the Chiefs last weekend. A similar effort will be welcomed by the Newlands faithful.
The Lions have been boosted by the return from injury of midfielder Lionel Mapoe. The Springbok is an explosive runner who will be expected to get his team over the gainline with some strong carries. He resumes his midfield partnership with Rohan Janse van Rensburg and if the powerful inside centre can create space for Mapoe, it should be a tough day at the office for the Stormers defenders.
Team news: The Stormers have made three changes to their run-on side. Johan du Toit, the younger brother of Pieter-Steph du Toit, will make his Super Rugby debut for the Stormers if he comes off the bench. With Cobus Wiese ruled out due to a shoulder injury, Nizaam Carr moves into the starting line-up with Du Toit providing back-row cover. There are just two changes to the Stormers pack that started in the victory against the Chiefs last week, with Pieter-Steph du Toit named at lock and Frans Malherbe rotating with Wilco Louw at tighthead prop. The only change to the back-line sees Jano Vermaak return to the team after being sidelined with concussion last week, with Godlen Masimla getting an opportunity to provide scrum-half cover on the replacements bench.
Lions head coach Johan Ackermann has made two changes to his starting XV. At outside centre, Springbok Lionel Mapoe returns after recovering from a hand injury and takes over from Harold Vorster, who drops down to the bench. The only other alteration from the run-on side which beat the Sharks two weeks ago sees Ross Cronje coming in at scrum-half where he replaces Faf de Klerk.
Form: The Stormers have won all six their matches so far. They started with back-to-back home wins against the Bulls and Jaguares before beating the Kings in Port Elizabeth. After that, they beat the Sunwolves in Singapore before returning to Cape Town where they claimed victories over the Cheetahs and Chiefs.
The Lions squeezed past the Cheetahs in their opener in Bloemfontein but claimed a convincing home win over the Waratahs in their next match. They suffered their only defeat in Round 3 against the Jaguares but bounced back with home wins over the Reds and Sharks in Johannesburg as well as a Round 5 triumph against the Kings in Port Elizabeth.
Prediction: Expect fireworks as two of the tournament’s most attacking teams take each other on. It will be tight affair but the Stormers will win by four points!
2016: Lions won 29-22 in Johannesburg
2015: The teams drew 19-19 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
2011: Stormers won 33-19 in Johannesburg
Stormers: 15 SP Marais, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Dan du Plessis, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Siya Kolisi (c), 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg
Replacements: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Johan du Toit, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Dan Kriel
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Courtnal Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Albertus Smith, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Harold Vorster, 23 Sylvian Mahuza
Date: Saturday, April 15
Venue: Newlands, Cape Town
Kick-off: 17:15 (15:15 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant Referees: AJ Jacobs, Cwengile Jadezweni
TMO: Shaun Veldsman