It’s show time for the Stormers! After having a bye last week, Jean de Villiers’s men can now let go of all the frustrations and anxiety with that first charge forward or first big tackle against the Lions at Ellis Park tomorrow.
But the unfancied Johannesburg side made everybody sit up and take notice after beating the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last week.
The Stormers wouldn’t want to be caught out like that, so here’s five ways in which we think they can beat the Lions.
1 Let Rynhardt Elstadt loose
Finally the big meanie from Montagu is back at No 4 lock. That is his best position, and not blindside flank, where he probably lacks a half-a-yard of pace to be effective. In the second row, Elstadt can go wild – of course, he mustn’t give away yellow cards. But he is someone who can intimidate the opposition with those bulging green eyes, and in that way, he can give the young Lions tight five an almighty fright.
Mind you, Elstadt is not just a bully. The last time he played a full season at lock was in 2011, and he was superb in contesting opposition lineouts, often winning balls against the throw. He might be a good default option on Stormers ball, as the Lions may not expect him to jump ahead of Manuel Carizza, Duane Vermeulen and Schalk Burger.
2 Hunt down Jaco Kriel
Derick Minnie has the reputation of being the tough guy of the Lions pack, but while he is hard and physical, it is Kriel who is the real piece of dynamite in that Lions loose trio. He is very quick across the ground, reads the play well and is often in the right place at the right time, and gets down and dirty at the breakdowns.
So the best way to keep him quiet may be to set him up to run into Duane Vermeulen ... and we all know what happens to people who run into Duane Vermeulen.
But if Kriel does breach the Stormers’ first line of defence, it will be up to opposite number Siya Kolisi to chase after him. Kriel is young and energetic, so the Stormers must mark him tightly.
3 Schreuder and Catrakilis must stay calm
Things didn’t work out so well for the Stormers halfback pair the last time they played together in a competitive match – for WP in last year’s Currie Cup final. Schreuder gave away an early try after throwing a long pass that was intercepted by Charl McLeod, while Catrakilis couldn’t match Patrick Lambie’s ability to control the game with his head and boot.
They come up against the unheralded Lions combo of Faf de Klerk and Marnitz Boshoff, who proved that they can perform on the big Super Rugby stage by taking charge of last week’s game against the Cheetahs – and they were on debut.
As well as Boshoff kicked to goal and out of hand, so did De Klerk influence the game with some sniping runs around the fringes, well-placed box kicks and a quick service from the base. He kept the opposition guessing with his busy style of play.
So the Stormers can’t afford to take their eye off him, not give Boshoff many penalty opportunities, and Catrakilis cannot miss any goal-kicks either.
4 Big game from big players
The Stormers may have lost a number of experienced players since last year, but they still have some serious talent available. Gio Aplon, Jean de Villiers, Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger, Siya Kolisi and Frans Malherbe are all Springboks, while Scarra Ntubeni and Louis Schreuder went on tour to Europe last year. The Lions have probably only two players who would fall into a similar category, Franco van der Merwe and Derick Minnie.
But oddly, the Cape side have seldom had an easy time of it at Ellis Park over the years, in Super Rugby and Currie Cup. Much stronger Stormers sides have only just eked out wins over the Lions, so tomorrow the top dogs need to have the biggest bark, especially with five Super Rugby debutants in the match-23. If they can do that, the Stormers should win easily.
5 Lap up Stormers support
The Lions announced on Twitter earlier this week that they had already sold 38 000 tickets for this game, which is unheard of at Ellis Park in Super Rugby. That is likely to grow to over 40 000 by match-day, which is fantastic for the occasion. It could also lead to some of those Stormers youngsters standing on the field wide-eyed and losing concentration, and perhaps forgetting certain calls.
But as Jean de Villiers pointed out this week, “I’m sure many of those people will be WP and Stormers supporters as well”. There will be thousands of Stormers fans waving team flags and screaming their lungs out for their heroes. In fact, they may even outnumber the home supporters.
So, newcomers such as Kobus van Wyk, Michael van der Spuy, Oliver Kebble and Ryno Eksteen should feel as if they are playing at Newlands.
Lions: 15 Chrysander Botha, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Stefan Watermeyer, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Ruan Combrinck, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Franco Mostert, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Schalk van der Merwe. Bench: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 MB Lusaseni, 20 Warwick Tecklenburg, 21 Ross Cronjé, 22 JW Jonker, 23 Coenie van Wyk.
Stormers: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Michael van der Spuy, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Damian de Allende, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Manuel Carizza, 4 Rynhardt Elstadt, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff. Bench: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Oliver Kebble, 18 Pat Cilliers, 19 Michael Rhodes, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Ryno Eksteen.
Referee: Jaco Peyper. Kickoff: 7.10pm.
TV: Live on SS1/SS HD1. - Cape Times