Front-end domination key for Lions and Stormers
Share this article:
On Saturday the Lions will host the Stormers in their first game of the Rainbow Cup South Africa at Emirates Airline Park (kick-off 2pm). Here we look at three aspects of an all-important clash that can pique the interest of neutrals and supporters alike.
In the same boat
Both the Lions and the Stormers lost their first two matches, against the same oppositions - the Bulls and the Sharks. It is arguably slightly worse for the Cape-based side, who did so on their one home turf. As a result, there will be an edge of desperation to the proceedings today as both sides try to overturn an underwhelming start to the tournament.
On paper, and with a degree of bias, one could argue that the Lions have the more well-rounded outfit. Both sides are pretty similar in almost every department, and both teams are packed full of youngsters. They even have a near identical spread of those players - an older, more experienced front-row; followed by young locks; and even younger loose-forwards; then a veteran at scrumhalf; a newbie at flyhalf; a mix and match of younger and older in the centres; and a near identical back three, age and experience wise.
It's friggin' weird, man.
Perhaps the one area the Stormers do have the upper-hand, will be in the front-row.
Although the Lions will arguably field their best combination in Sti Sithole, Jaco Visagie and Carlu Sadie, they will be facing the Springbok trio of Steven Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi and Frans Malherbe. The Lions are, therefore, in for one mighty battle to take control of the scrums against, not only the best front-row in the country, but possibly the world. The Stormers have not lost a scrum, despite their defeats, while the Lions scrum has been a bit shaky, especially in the opening moments of the match.
Sithole and Sadie will have to front-up from the start to quell any intentions the Stormers have of taking control of that particular set-piece. Luckily, they do have Springbok Ruan Dreyer on the bench, which could be a massive coup in the later stages of the encounter.
And what about those loosies ...
You could easily be justified in saying that the respective backlines on match-day are two sides of the same coin, such is their make-up. So, how they fare will in all likelihood be heavily influenced by the forwards battle and more specifically, which loose-trio will come out on top.
Both teams have young Turks in their loosies - Willie Engelbrecht is by far the oldest of the six starring players at 28 years old. MJ Pesler, Vincent Tshituka, Francke Horn, Marcel Theunissen and Evan Roos are all 22-years-old or younger. The Lions probably have the more settled trio, and in Tshituka have a player with X-factor. If they can boss the breakdowns and collisions, then they will be able to heavily disrupt any momentum or flow the Stormers can engineer - and the same is true for the Capetonians as well.
Moreover, the 6-2 split on the benches speaks to an anticipation from both sides that the match will be won, or lost, up-front. Winning that microcosm will help unleash backlines loaded with pace, skill, and tries.
Emirates Lions Starting XV: EW Viljoen; Rabz Maxwane, Wandisile Simelane, Burger Odendaal (capt), Courtnall Skosan; Jordan Hendrikse, André Warner; Francke Horn, Vincent Tshituka, MJ Pelser, Reinhard Nothnagel, Ruben Schoeman, Carlu Sadie, Jaco Visagie, Sti Sithole; Replacements: PJ Botha, Ruan Dreyer, Asenathi Ntlabakanye, Willem Alberts, Emmanuel Tshituka, Morné van den Berg, Fred Zeilinga, Dan Kriel
DHL Stormers starting XV: Damian Willemse, Sergeal Petersen, Dan du Plessis, Rikus Pretorius, Edwill van der Merwe, Abner van Reenen, Herschel Jantjies, Evan Roos, Willie Engelbrecht, Marcel Theunissen, David Meihuizen, Ernst van Rhyn, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff (capt); Replacements: Scarra Ntubeni, Ali Vermaak, Neethling Fouche, Ben-Jason Dixon, Johan du Toit, Juarno Augustus, Paul de Wet, Tim Swiel