THE Stormers and the Lions are setting a hot pace in South African rugby at the moment. So you’d better brace yourself for a heart-stopping derby at Newlands on Saturday. Rugby writers Jacques van der Westhuyzen and Wynona Louw take a light-hearted look at the match.
Jacques van der Westhuyzen
We all know the original is far better than the cover - no matter who does it and whatever changes are made to it. The Stormers in 2017 are the cover version of the original Lions. It’s a bit like Justin Bieber covering a Bruce Springsteen song. That’s just the plain reality.
Granted, the Stormers have put out a pretty decent copy of the original, I’ll give them that. I suppose it helps that they’ve brought in the former Lions stalwart and junior coach Russell Winter to work with the forwards.
The Capetonians have played their rugby with real zest this year, they’ve kept ball in hand, they’ve spread it wide and the players have been given licence to “play it as they see it”.
Men like SP Marais, Dillyn Leyds, Robert du Preez, Dan du Plessis, Cheslin Kolbe and Dewaldt Duvenage have thrived in the environment created by Robbie Fleck... but, let’s be honest, what the Stormers have done in 2017 is still not what the Lions did in 2016 - the original thrill-a-minute team - and what Johan Ackermann’s charges have done up to now.
The likes of Faf de Klerk, Elton Jantjies, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Courtnall Skosan, Andries Coetzee were the original off-load kings, try-hungry gap-busters... and they remain that.
This weekend they’ll want to put the puffed-up Capetonians in their place. Seriously Stormers fans, enough now; you can stop raving about that one off-load against the Chiefs - that’s one off-load. One.
Also, all of a sudden every Stormers player is a Bok, and a potential saviour of the national side, including one young 18-year-old flyhalf who’s had three minutes of Super Rugby action. Really?
Ackermann’s team are the original trend-setters, too. They’ll set that record straight against the impostors this weekend in their first outing since their coach revealed he’d be leaving the Lions at the conclusion of the competition. To go back to Springsteen for a moment, the Lions will show who’s the boss on Saturday.
Shame man, it must be extremely difficult for the Lions to see another team be the pride of the South African rugby pack. Yep, you guessed it. That pride is, of course, the Stormers.
And like I said, the Lions must be feeling it. They must be feeling it a lot. Last year it was Johan Ackermann’s team that had everybody shouting “make all the Lions Springboks!” and, well... that seems to be the notion going around about the Stormers now. Not a good feeling hey, Lions?
Siestog...we all know how the Johannesburgers love attention, I mean, if it’s not Elton Jantjies getting edgier haircuts week in and week out, or Rohan Janse van Rensburg showing off his Luke McAlister-like thighs (you can stop pumping them up now, Rohan), it’s the whole of Johannesburg filling up our social media news feeds with their somewhat annoying #BeThere campaigns (it’s getting too much now, Leeus).
I know this whole hashtag craze of theirs is to engage their supporters and hunt for more, but if not even an Ernie Els, all-over-the-internet video of support can help you guys beat the Jaguares, how are all your other supporters going to help you beat the Stormers?
And besides, the Lions are so used to facing lousy Australian opposition by now (remember the old saying, you’re only as good as your competition) that they won’t know what to do with the Stormers’ impressive onslaught. And their recent opposition, the Sharks, are so up and down they don’t mean much. So you can stop holding onto that win, Lions (and the Kings and Cheetahs - after all, the Stormers beat them better than you did).
And Stormers, remember, there’s another old saying - you’re only as good as your last game - and well... we all know how YOUR last game was.
So go out there and send your fans twisting into the same spirals of delight at Newlands.
Oh yes, one last thing. The Lions are probably still very emotional about the announced departure of their beloved coach, so who knows; as if they don’t have enough odds against them already, could that sad news be the biggest downer?