The Stormers will have quite a few crosses to turn into ticks when they host the Lions at Newlands on Saturday (kick-off 5.15 pm).
Their 26-23 defeat to the Sunwolves in Hong Kong not only added some extra heat to the Super Rugby hot seat Robbie Fleck’s team find themselves in, but it was also a continuation of a number of troubles the Cape side have been experiencing this season.
Their struggling away form – they've lost all seven games on the road – failed to crack at the Mong Kok Stadium, leaving them with only five wins in 13 games.
The fact that the Lions haven’t lost to a South African team in 20 games doesn’t speak in favour of the Stormers’ chances. But there can be no doubt the hosts will be desperate to head into the international break on a good note.
After all...they have nothing to lose but a play-off spot that isn’t very much within reach anymore. And earlier this week, Stormers back JJ Engelbrecht said their situation won’t affect their confidence and that their motivation to make the most of their three remaining games (against the Lions, Jaguares and Sharks) cannot be questioned.
The Lions, on the other hand, will go into the fixture fresh off a win against the Brumbies.
It will be a round of redemption for the Stormers, not only in terms of results, but also on-field productions.
Against the Sunwolves, one of the few positives was their scrummaging which has been one of their more consistent positives throughout the year.
It’s the one area the Stormers can be regarded the favourites in this weekend, while the other big set-piece test could go either way.
The Lions have been solid from the lineout, and their driving maul has been a pleasing production.
The Stormers’ lineout performances have caused them all kinds of trouble in the recent past, but their work in that area has stabilised since early 2018. But as much as the Stormers have managed to keep it tidier at the lineout, keeping the Lions in check will still be crucial to stopping them getting any momentum on attack from the lineout launch. Also, what the Stormers do after the lineout will be another assignment.
They’ve looked good on attack from the set-piece at times, and they just need to make sure they hold onto that advantage.
The breakdown will be another crucial battle. The coaching staff have spoken quite a bit about their aspirations with regards to maximising their work on the ground as well as after it.
It’s perhaps one of those tests the Stormers have passed but not in an absolutely dominant manner, and if they can get that right on Saturday, it will serve another platform to put pressure on their fellow South Africans in terms of attack.
Again, attack. It’s one aspect that promises to be interesting against a team who have made so many strides in that regard.
One of the Stormers’ downfalls this season has been the fact that they’ve succeed in stringing together promising, at times exhilarating, spells, only for a pass to go astray or a handling error to set in.
And with the kind of attacking flair the Lions boast, it’s an oops the Stormers can’t afford to regret.
It was there against the Sunwolves – the Stormers had their chances, but they failed to hold onto the ball, while the hosts showed a better appreciation for their possession.
But as much as the Stormers need to be careful of slip-ups on attack, they should also make it a mission to pounce on the Lions’ errors.