Planet Rugby

Preview: Stormers v Lions

18th April 2014 14:41

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Duane Vermeulen of the Stormers tackled by Lions

Rough run: Duane Vermeulen

Searching for a breakthrough in a bleak season, bottom side the Stormers host the upstart Lions this weekend in Newlands.

Allister Coetzee's men have enjoyed a bye week off from a hellish campaign in which they occasionally have gone down fighting - on tour against the Chiefs and Crusaders - or simply not turned up.

Injuries have played a role; their second row is decimated and that's some blow when you account for the absence of Eben Etzebeth, Manuel Carizza and De Kock Steenkamp. As a result their lineout is the worst in the competition statistically, with a success percentage of 75.5.

Their chief spark, Gio Aplon, is also out. It's safe to say luck hasn't been on their side.

Weirdly for a team that has only won one of their first seven matches, the Stormers have the fifth-best defence in the competition.

The age old problem is their attack. The Stormers are only scoring an average of 15 points per game, have only scored ten tries, and their total of 105 points so far is the lowest in the competition by some margin, with the Rebels the next lowest on 169.

Success will be impossible unless this improves and moving Peter Grant to full-back certainly isn't the answer. The Stormers can attempt to kick the Lions to death, but will fail.

To condemn the Stormers further, no team has made fewer carries and fewer metres and offloads. Their scrum, to buck the trend, is actually the tournament's best on 91 percent.

If only that scrum was providing a platform for the Stormers' backs to break out. Juan de Jongh and Jean de Villiers are class acts, while Sailosi Tagicakibau have Damien de Allende have both proven they can finish.

While the Stormers are depressingly conservative, the Lions have surpassed all expectations set for them in 2014.

Oddly enough they have only scored one more try than the Stormers, but thanks to the accurate and productive kicking of tournament top scorer Marnitz Boshoff find themselves sitting third in the South African Conference. They have won four matches, when nobody expected them to win one.

Put that down to a hard-working group that appear well-drilled by Johan Ackermann and brim with fighting spirit.

Stars are slowly emerging. The Lions are getting the best out of Lionel Mapoe at outside centre, while Faf de Klerk is combining well with Boshoff.

Jaco Kriel deserves more accolades in an eight lead well by Warren Whiteley - who is one of the top tacklers this year with 96. Even with Springbok lock Franco van der Merwe seemingly out for the rest of the season, this is still a pack that can hold its own.

Against the Sharks the Lions sucked their visitors into a battle they couldn't get out of. It was an ugly scrap of an 80 minutes sooner best forgotten, but the Lions subdued the Super Rugby leaders.

Now they travel to Cape Town and no doubt will rely on Boshoff's boot for victory against a tough Stormers' defensive wall.

The thing is, should the Lions need to open up the game and bring in the likes of Anthony Volmink, Stefan Watermeyer and Mapoe, they know how to do so. Their attack isn't the best, but it's considerably better than their opponents.

Form: The Stormers have lost an unprecedented five matches in a row with their only win coming in the second round of the tournament when they sneaked in a one point win against the Waratahs. The Lions have four wins to show thus far, but have lost their last two.

Previous Results:

2014: Lions 34-10 Stormers
2013: Lions 42-12 Stormers
2012: Stormers 27-17 Lions
2012: Lions 19-24 Stormers

Prediction: Will the Stormers slump to a seventh loss of the year? They were thumped at Ellis Park in the opening week and have arguably never recovered. Playing at Newlands will be a tougher task of the Lions, but they can do it. Lions by three.

The teams:

Stormers: 15 Peter Grant, 14 Damian de Allende, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Michael Rhodes, 4 Ruan Botha, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Brok Harris, 19 Jurie van Vuuren, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Devon Williams, 23 Jaco Taute

Lions: 15 Chrysander Botha, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Martin Muller, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Schalk van der Merwe
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 MB Lusaseni, 20 Willie Britz, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 JW Jonker

Date: Saturday, April 19
Venue: Newlands Stadium
Kickoff: 17:05 (local, 15:05 GMT)
Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa) Quinton Immelman (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

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