Stormers must defuse Lions’ bombs in URC derby

Stormers fullback Warrick Gelant will have to be commanding in the air to extinguish the danger from the Lions’ high kicks. Photo: BackpagePix

Stormers fullback Warrick Gelant will have to be commanding in the air to extinguish the danger from the Lions’ high kicks. Photo: BackpagePix

Published May 30, 2024


The Stormers’ ability under the high ball will come under immense scrutiny from the Lions’ kickers in Saturday’s United Rugby Championship clash at Cape Town Stadium (1.45pm kick-off).

It’s an aspect of their game that has come under pressure a bit during the season, including in their last outing against Connacht.

But it’s something the team are acutely aware of, especially their kick-off receipts and exit strategy directly after scoring points.

To beat the Lions, who have a host of astute kickers in the team, the Stormers must be clinical on Saturday, especially if the ball is a bit slippery in the Cape Town weather.

Off the back of two away wins, the inaugural URC winners can secure fifth spot on the log with a victory over their fellow South Africans.

The Lions, though, can still make the play-offs if they complete a bonus-point win and other results go their way.

While they have worked on their skills under the high ball throughout the season, things didn’t go according to plan in Galway, despite a 16-12 victory.

The Stormers’ receivers struggled to secure possession, which allowed the Irish club to keep piling the pressure on them even after conceding – and it made getting out of their half difficult.

The Lions will have taken note of that, and it’s one area where they will look to pressure their hosts.

Another is with the boots of players like scrumhalf Morné van den Berg and utility backs Sanele Nohamba, Jordan Hendrikse and Quan Horn.

It could become a long afternoon for the Stormers back three of Warrick Gelant, Suleiman Hartzenberg and Angelo Davids if they fail to secure possession from kick-offs and high kicks to exit their danger zone effectively. And unlike Connacht, the Lions will find a way to cross the whitewash.

“This is a big area of our game that we are constantly working on,” Dawie Snyman, Stormers assistant coach said about the side’s abilities under the high ball.

“It is something we need to get right. I don’t feel it is quite a massive issue in our squad. We will know where teams want to target us.

“There might be one or two, and we must be ready (for it). But there will also be one or two areas you won’t always be able to cover – it’s not something big for us.”

The Stormers are also not too fazed about the log currently, but only focused on bagging at least a win in the South African derby.

There is the outside chance of them slipping to seventh place if they can’t get any points out of the clash.

That will mean that they can still lose their Champions Cup spot should the team that ends eighth go on to win the URC.

It’s highly unlikely to happen but it’s probably territory they do not want to venture into.

“Quite a while ago, we decided to go into play-off mode. The same thing will happen on Saturday. We have to win – it is important – whether it’s by one point or two, it doesn’t matter.

“If something happens (on the log), it’s something we can’t control.”