Cape Town - Stormers skipper Steven Kitshoff is expecting another big scrummaging challenge in their United Rugby Championship match against the Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday (kickoff 3pm).
The last time these sides met, the Lions thumped the hosts 37-19 at Cape Town Stadium in early December. The Stormers are, however, clear favourites going into this encounter given their run of results in the local derbies this year.
While they were completely out-scrummed by the Sharks at Kings Park a fortnight ago, the Stormers’ pack looked much more steady in the return match in Cape Town last weekend.
Speaking during a media briefing this week, Kitshoff said they want to continue improving against the Joburg side.
“I think the Lions have got an incredible scrum pack, they have been doing very well and they put the Bulls under a lot of pressure in previous weeks, so I think it’s going to be a big challenge at scrum time,” the Springbok prop said.
“I think in the last two weeks we really improved in the way we want to do things at scrum time, we’re very focused on our processes, and we know going up to Joburg it’s going to be a really tough scrum battle.”
In their three URC matches this year, the Stormers drew against a Bok-laden Sharks outfit in Durban, beat the Bulls at Loftus and overcame Lukhanyo Am’s side in their return match in Cape Town, making them the top South African team in the competition.
While they have done well - especially considering the quality of the opposition they’ve beaten - Kitshoff said they still have some way to go before they reach their goal.
“I don’t think we are there yet, it’s a massive emphasis every week - preparation wise - that we keep pushing the standards and it’s still a work in progress. We are still chasing that perfect game and that squad synchronisation,” he explained.
“It’s always tough playing in Johannesburg. The Lions are a tough team, especially there. They live for turnover ball and their back three and some of their outside backs are quite deadly, so we understand that completely. We will try our best not to give them any balls on a platter.”
While he added that this game - just like the previous three derbies - will test them as a squad, the World Cup-winning front-rower was confident that his side is equipped to deal with the challenge.
“I think the performances from the last three weeks and having another tough one now is definitely going to test our maturity and it’s definitely going to test our processes and the way we want to play,” Kitshoff said.
Sticking to the plan is going to be important, if things go wrong it’s going to be vital to see how quickly we can turn things around and swing the momentum back into our favour. It’s definitely going to test the leaders of the group and it’s going to test the team as a whole.
“So ja, it's a big test, but I think the way we prepared this week, the momentum we have at the moment and the confidence in the squad is good…so I think if we stick to our structures we can get the win.”