Leon Lyons answers Stormers SOS for Ulster showdown

Stormers loosehead prop Leon Lyons, who was on loan at Griquas, is set to square off against Ulster on Saturday. Photo: BackpagePix

Stormers loosehead prop Leon Lyons, who was on loan at Griquas, is set to square off against Ulster on Saturday. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Mar 26, 2024


The Stormers are still toying with some options at loosehead, but Leon Lyons landed in Cape Town yesterday morning after returning from Kimberley to solve an injury crisis.

Lyons was on loan with Griquas, and he looks set to slot right in as a back-up to Brok Harris, filling the void left by the injuries in the squad for Saturday’s United Rugby Championship clash against Ulster at Cape Town Stadium (7.15pm kick-off).

Luckily, John Dobson’s team are sound at tighthead, with Bok Frans Malherbe and star performer Neethling Fouché ready to take on former Stormers captain Steven Kitshoff, who recently joined Ulster after leaving South Africa after last year’s World Cup.

Stormers assistant coach Labeeb Levy confirmed they are still hunting for another loosehead prop, with four players currently on the injury list.

Springbok Lizo Gqoboka left the field with a sore ankle in Saturday’s 43-21 win over Edinburgh, while Sti Sithole, Kwenzo Blose and veteran Ali Vermaak are all out for an extended spell.

The 39-year-old Harris is currently the only fit loosehead for the Cape side.

“Leon has come in this morning and looks like the immediate go-to person, and he looks fit and keen,” Levy said yesterday about their options for Saturday’s clash.

“But we are still searching in the country, and maybe around the world at this point. We are toying with some options.”

On the opposite side of the scrum, though, things should go swimmingly against Kitshoff, looking at Malherbe’s return and how impressive Fouché has been.

Levy laughed at the suggestion that there might be a gentlemen’s agreement between Kitshoff and his former Stormers teammates to keep parity in the scrums.

He said everything would be friendly with their former colleague until the first whistle.

The Stormers struggled to gain the ascendency in the scrums against Edinburgh at the weekend.

They will want to see an improvement against Ulster – who lost 22-12 to the Sharks in Durban at the weekend – especially with the prospect of facing a strong La Rochelle scrum in the knockouts of the Champions Cup in two weeks.

“It is exciting for us to see Kitsie home ... He has been here since his school days. He is a legend in Cape Town and a household name. It is a homecoming for him,” Levy said.

“They (Malherbe and Kitshoff) are good mates and have scrummed against each other for the last 14 years, twice a week. It is going to be interesting because they know each other so well.

“But obviously, when the ref blows the whistle, it’s a different story.

“We are really happy to welcome him back, and there will be some tales to tell after the game. He is a very good scrummager, so we are looking forward to it. That potential battle is tantalising.”

Levy also warned that the Stormers could be set for a big battle in midfield against Ulster, who are expected to put his side under immense pressure at the breakdown.

Their centre pairing of Dan du Plessis and Wandisile Simelane were excellent in the win over Edinburgh, and will have to be again to deal with the threat of Stuart McCloskey, among others, should he start again.

“From our perspective, we have to cover all our bases like in the line-outs and maul defence, the scrum too,” Levy said.

“But I think the breakdown will be key to securing ball possession for our runners. They are very physical in the midfield, but we know Dan can be tough. That will be a battle on its own.”