Preview: Stormers v Lions

Date published: June 5 2015

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The Lions must win at Newlands for the first time in their history if they are to stay alive in Super Rugby this year. The Stormers await.

The Cats managed to win in Cape Town back in 2001, but the Stormers have won 11 of their 12 matches since the Lions and Cheetahs split in 2006.

Another victory for the Stormers this weekend will not only end the Lions’ hopes of reaching the playoffs, it will also clinch the South African Conference title for the Capetonians for a third time.

Even if the Lions win, it may not be enough as they have a bye next week but that shouldn't dampen their determination. The Lions' never-say-die attitude has been one of the highlights of this season, and their current rich vein of form means that victory at Newlands is very possible. 

"The Lions’ results this season speak for themselves – they're a form team with plenty of self-belief and why not? We know we're in for a tough game against a team that asks a helluva lot of questions of you, especially in the set-piece," said Stormers head coach Allister Coetzee this week. 

The Stormers will nevertheless start as the clear favourites. Six wins from their last seven games have underlined Coetzee's team's status as the best team in South Africa and their strength on defence is likely to ensure that the Lions' season ends on Saturday.

Indeed, a low-scoring affair is likely since in the 12 previous games between these two sides, a try-scoring bonus point has only been bagged once –  back in 2009. The last five fixtures between these sides have all seen fewer than 45 points scored on aggregate, at an average of 39 points per game.

Both teams' discipline has been impressive. The Stormers (8.8) and Lions (9.8) are two of just three sides to average less than 10 penalties conceded this year.

But successful first-phase attacks have been rare. When it comes to tries scored from set pieces (line-outs and scrums) with the feed, only the Bulls and Lions rank behind the Stormers.

The last time these teams met: The Stormers were forced to come from behind to claim a hard-fought 22-19 victory at  Ellis Park in Round 3. A rolling maul in 77th minute earned the Stormers their only try and simultaneously gave them the lead for the first time. There was more late drama as twice – after the final hooter – the Lions turned down easy penalties which would have drawn the game. On both occasions Howard Mnisi knocked on as the Stormers defence held firm under massive pressure.

Players to watch: The return of BlitzBok Seabelo Senatla has added some bite to the Stormers attack. He was excellent against Cheetahs last week, scoring two tries. Expect him to make an impact. Elton Jantjies has been the form South African fly-half this year, playing a major role in keep the Lions in hunt for a play-off. However, he'll need another big performance if he is to force his way into the reckoning for Springbok selection. This is the ideal stage to show his value. The battle between the respective skippers and number eights Duane Vermeulen and Warren Whiteley is set to be epic. 

Team news: Burger, Frans Malherbe and Bongi Mbonambi have all been included in the Stormers’ starting line-up, for Nizaam Carr, Vincent Koch and the injured Scarra Ntubeni respectively. Carr and Koch shift to the bench, where they are joined by Michael Willemse and Jaco Taute, both of whom played for Western Province in the Vodacom Cup Final last weekend. In the only change to the Lions XV, Alwyn Hollenbach will start at inside centre after Lionel Mapoe failed a late fitness test. As a result, Harold Vorster will shift to outside centre.

Form: The Stormers have won six of their last seven games with last week's 42-12 thumping of the Cheetahs their third-straight victory. The Lions won eight of their last 10 games are coming off back-to-back wins over the Cheetahs and Waratahs, having beaten the defending champions 27-22 last week. 

Predictions: The Lions have shown they can upset the big teams this year, but the Stormers' record at Newlands cannot be ignored. Stormers by six points

Previous results: 
2015: Stormers v Lions in Johannesburg
2014: Stormers v Lions in 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:

Stormers: 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen (c), 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Manuel Carizza, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Michael Willemse, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Jean Kleyn, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Jaco Taute.

Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Harold Vorster, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Martin Muller, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Armand van der Merwe, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Robert Kruger, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Marnitz Boshoff, 23 Howard Mnisi.

Date: Saturday, June 6
Venue: Newlands Stadium, Cape Town
Kick-off: 17:05 local (15:05 GMT, 01:05 AEST, 03:05 NZST)
Referee: Stuart Berry
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen, Quinton Immelman
TMO: Marius Jonker

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