CAPE TOWN – The lineout and the breakdown. Those are the two areas Stormers coach Robbie Fleck is especially wary of as they prepare to head into their Super Rugby clash against the Lions at Newlands today (kickoff 5.15pm).
While the Stormers’ lineout has managed to emerge from troubled times as the season’s progressed, the Lions’ lineout has been a well-functioning unit in 2018, and their drives from the set-piece have also given them lots to be pleased with.
And while their lineouts are certainly looking better, the Stormers will run out against the South African conference’s leaders without lock Pieter-Steph du Toit.
And with Eben Etzebeth looking likely to only return to action towards the end of June, the Stormers will go into this crucial clash without one of their most powerful combinations.
But Fleck isn’t too concerned about the absence of his Springbok second row for another must-win game.
“Pieter-Steph is of course a quality player, but we’ve got all the faith in the other guys to do the job.”
“I think with Chris van Zyl and Jan de Klerk... they’ve been able to control our lineout effectively,” Fleck said about the starting duo.
‘’I’m pretty sure we can put their lineout under pressure, it’s one thing we’ve improved on in terms of our contesting. On our own ball we’ve improved as well.”
The Stormers didn’t produced a top display at the lineout against the Sunwolves last week, and their scrum was about the only contribution they could really be happy with.
And while that performance wouldn’t have done their confidence a lot of good, the Stormers coach is drawing confidence from their set-piece work prior to the Hong Kong disappointment.
“Last week we weren’t as effective as we could have been, but in the weeks before that we’ve been operating at about 90% on our own ball,” Fleck said.
And then there’s the breakdown – an area the Stormers aren’t depleted in at all. In fact, their back-row combination for their last match before the Test break is one to get excited about.
Captain Siya Kolisi and Sikhumbuzo Notshe – in his 50th game for the Stormers – will start at No 6 and 8, while Kobus van Dyk will come in at blindside flank.
Kolisi and Notshe’s speed should make the battle to the breakdown an good one, and it’s a contest Fleck has flagged as an important one.
“When we played up at Ellis Park we lost four or five ball on the deck to Kwagga and Marnus Schoeman and Malcolm Marx,” he said.
“We were pretty effective at retaining possession and getting into good positions but when we had an error in terms of lack of detail or not getting to the breakdown early or a one-off runner...the Lions exposed us there.”
Fleck added that the ruck responsibilities won’t only belong to the loose forwards.
“For us it’s about winning races and being effective at the breakdown. We have a pretty speedy back row this week, but to win those races should be a collective effort. It’s going to have to be one to 15 to secure possession.”
“The Lions are pretty effective at getting turnovers and I think one area where the Brumbies did well was they limited the Lions’ opportunities at the breakdown, and it’s certainly something we have to get right in this game.”
Teams For Newlands
Stormers: 15 SP Marais, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Jan de Klerk, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Ramone Samuels, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Bench: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Cobus Wiese, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 EW Viljoen, 23 Craig Barry.
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Franco Mostert (captain), 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Lourens Erasmus, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Bench: 16 Corné Fourie, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Rhyno Herbst, 20 Hacjivah Dayimani, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Madosh Tambwe, 23 Sylvian Mahuza.