Lions must do it for captain Willem Alberts against Stormers

WILLEM Alberts will captain the Lions against the Stormers in what could be his last match before retirement. Photo: BackpagePix

WILLEM Alberts will captain the Lions against the Stormers in what could be his last match before retirement. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Jun 1, 2024


THEY have their URC play-off destiny in their own hands, and a win today in Cape Town could secure a first-ever quarter-final berth for the Lions.

But plenty of sides will tell you that going to the Cape Town Stadium and winning is not for everyone.

Luckily, the Johannesburg side don’t fall under that as they are the only South African team to have taken the Stormers down at their fortress in the URC.

That was way back in the debut season of the local teams, and if they can pitch up in the Mother City (1.45pm kick-off) and give their all, it can lead to that history-making play-off berth.

A victory can also potentially be a memorable farewell for retiring 40-year-old stalwart Willem Alberts, who will captain the Lions today, because it’s unlikely that he will play on home soil again, even if they reach the play-offs.

A few other players, notably hard-working flank Emmanuel Tshituka and young utility back Jordan Hendrikse, who are both joining the Sharks next season, could also be playing their final game in a Lions jersey.

But should things go up in smoke and they fall short again, it will be the third successive campaign where Ivan van Rooyen’s outfit will look back on a bunch of what-ifs after playing some good rugby through the competition.

Four points is what they are after today – five will be even better – and only a team effort against a dangerous Stormers will get that for them.

The Lions only have to look back to their brilliant win over Glasgow Warriors a couple of weeks ago to find inspiration for today’s match.

It was another do-or-die encounter, and they put in a committed performance thanks to a platform laid by the forwards, and their dangerous backline striking when they were in a position to score points.

Yes, the Stormers’ defence is not that of Glasgow, and it’s not a match on the Highveld. But being the only SA side to win in Cape Town in the history of the URC, the visitors will have some extra motivation.

They will know that errors on attack and in defence could come at a heavy price against the free-flowing game-plan of the former URC champions.

It’s those small mistakes that cost the Lions time and again this season.

The Stormers love a bit of broken play and attacking their opponents by creating chaos, so accuracy on the attack, defence and breakdown will be crucial for the visitors if they are to halt their opponents.

Then they need to use their successful scrum and line-out to lay a perfect base for their backline to attack from.

Although a relatively green midfield, Hendrikse and Erich Cronjé have been solid when called upon.

Their defensive performance will be key, while the high-ball skills of the back three will also be tested by the Stormers’ kicking game.

The boots of halfbacks Morné van den Berg and Sanele Nohamba will equally be important in relieving pressure and putting the heat on the back three of the home side, Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, Suleiman Hartzenberg and Angelo Davids.

Should the Lions backs get the space they seek on attack, wings Rabz Maxwane and Edwill van der Merwe can cause some headaches with their pace. The duo will be important in their side’s quest for four tries and a victory.

Lions Team

15 Quan Horn 14 Rabz Maxwane 13 Erich Cronjé 12 Jordan Hendrikse 11 Edwill van der Merwe 10 Sanele Nohamba 9 Morné van den Berg 8 Francke Horn 7 Emmanuel Tshituka 6 JC Pretorius 5 Ruan Delport 4 Willem Alberts (captain) 3 Asenathi Ntlabakanye 2 PJ Botha 1 Morgan Naudé.

Bench: 16 Jaco Visagie 17 JP Smith 18 Ruan Dreyer 19 Etienne Oosthuizen 20 Reinhard Nothnagel 21 Izan Esterhuizen 22 Marius Louw 23 Gianni Lombard.