Stormers wary of Lions’ flair

The unpredictability of the Lions will be the Stormers’ biggest concern when they host Loffie Eloff’s charges at Newlands, says Gary Gold.

The Stormers head into Saturday’s game desperate for victory having lost their last two matches. Ahead of a demanding five-match tour, they’ll also need to bag some log points to remain in the play-off race.

Last Saturday, the Cape franchise lost narrowly to the Bulls, a side that currently top the Super 14 table. Logic would suggest a win for the Stormers against one of the tournament’s weakest teams would be a formality, but just as the two Gauteng franchises are at opposite ends of the Super 14 spectrum, their playing styles are a world apart.

Gold told it is because of their expansive style that the Lions shouldn’t be underestimated.

“The Lions have a very different playing philosophy to teams like the Bulls, they’ll have a go from anywhere on the field. They are a very good team on paper and have that air of unpredictability. This week will be about planning for the unexpected.

“Earl Rose is a great creator and a fantastic player in broken play. The Lions have some great runners, and they also have a very good kicking game. We’re going to have to handle their powerful forwards and then stop their dangerous backs. We are going to have to defend very well this weekend.”

The Lions have one of the better loose trios with Baywatch Grobbelaar partnered by Ernst Joubert and Willem Alberts. If these men are able to pressure the Stormers at the breakdown they’ll slow the hosts to the point where they’ll fail to gain significant ground. If they affect regular turnovers, all hell could break loose.

“The Lions have a real ability to hurt you from turnover ball,” said Gold. “Baywatch, Ernst and even a guy like Doppies La Grange will contest strongly at the breakdown, and as well as our guys have done in previous weeks against the Blues and Bulls in this department, it’s going to be a big challenge once again.”

Despite the 14-10 loss at Loftus Versfeld, the Stormers forwards performed well against a much-fancied Bulls pack. Gold hopes the misconceptions and ‘light five’ taunts will finally cease.

“It would be foolish for us not to be incredibly disappointed with the loss. Our intention was to go there and win, and we didn’t achieve that. To look at the positives, we got our game plan right at Loftus.

“From a forward point of view, we not only matched the Bulls but beat them in certain departments. Our lineout is one of the strongest in the competition and did well again while our scrum stood up to the Bulls.

“Hopefully people will finally realise there are no fundamental problems with our tight five. For Brian Mujati to scrum as well as he did against Gurthro Steenkamp and for our lineout to function the way it did against a Bulls outfit that had Bakkies Botha, Danie Rossouw and [later in the second half] Victor Matfield, well that says it all.

“I was also happy with our work at the breakdown. It’s never easy to travel to a volatile environment like Loftus and I’m glad to say we matched the Bulls physically and intellectually,” Gold added.

The Stormers should welcome back JD Moller and Schalk Burger from injury this week while Conrad Jantjes could also make the cut after missing the last two games. Rassie Erasmus will announce his match 22 on Wednesday.

By Jon Cardinelli