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Can Stormers avoid the ’cold fish’ against the Lions in the United Rugby Championship?

Stormers centre Dan du Plessis should be fit to face the Lions despite a ’dodgy glute’. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Stormers centre Dan du Plessis should be fit to face the Lions despite a ’dodgy glute’. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Published Feb 10, 2022

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Cape Town - The Stormers are rightfully getting rave reviews after beating the Bulls away, drawing with the Sharks away, and then beating the Durbanites in Cape Town.

But coach John Dobson has seen this movie before, and is not falling for it just yet. Steven Kitshoff's team are the leading South African team in the United Rugby Championship at the moment, which is a bit unexpected, considering all their boardroom problems and lack of star quality.

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Dobson and his coaching staff seemed to have found the recipe for success, and Kitshoff and his teammates are implementing it to a tee, culminating in the 20-10 triumph over Lukhanyo Am's Sharks last weekend at Cape Town Stadium.

They are clear favourites for Saturday's URC clash with the Lions at Ellis Park (3pm kick-off), but the Stormers are still a bit haunted their 37-19 defeat to the Johannesburg outfit in early December at Cape Town Stadium.

That came off the back of a satisfying tour of Europe, where they were in winning positions against Benetton and Munster, only to lose in the end, drew with Edinburgh and beat the Dragons.

“We are tracking nicely, and that was a good performance against the Sharks. But I don't think it means that the Stormers are revived or Champions League (European Champions Cup) sort of qualifiers yet – there's a long road to travel. We mustn't forget that in Durban, we had a really hard time,” Dobson said.

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“But we had a similar feeling on the tour. From that game against Benetton, and then we were quite good in that first half against Munster … it was very good. Then against Edinburgh, who were on top of the table a week ago, we drew with them and should probably have won that game. Then we finished with a win in Newport (against the Dragons).

“We felt that, and then we got the smack of a cold fish in the face against the Lions in our first home game. So, we are very wary of getting too (far ahead of ourselves). But I do think that our playing style, and some of the tactical stuff, we definitely are improving, I've got no doubt.”

The Stormers conceded an unbelievable 41 turnovers against the Lions in their last match, but are confident that there won't be a repeat on Saturday.

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“We will never have a repeat of that 41 (turnovers) – there was not a lot good about that game. The score-line was appalling, the turnovers were appalling, and that's why we lost it. But we were in the mid-60s in possession and territory, so our process was right and the way we want to play, the energy. But we will never make so many mistakes again,” Dobson said.

“We need to be half of that at Ellis Park, if not better, and I think we have got better and better with that. If you thought where we were against the Bulls even, to the Sharks' last game, where there was one set-piece entry …

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“We expect another scrum battle, and we saw how they attacked the Bulls.

“We also know how they like to play at Ellis Park, with quite a high ball-in-play, ball-in-hand tempo game. So, those will probably be their threats. The third one, we all know how well they kick distance up there.

“The Sharks are very much a contestable-based team, and the Lions are about distance. I'm sure they're not happy with where they are as a group, and we saw what happened at Cape Town Stadium.

“So, that's a team that's really fighting. Their soul is a team who will fight and really be desperate.”

@ashfakmohamed

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