Stage set for epic SA derby

The Stormers occupy top spot on 23 points having lost only one game this season to the Sharks.

file: Stormers eighth man Duane Vermeulen is tackled by two Lions players. Picture: Facebook.com

CAPE TOWN - The two sides on top of the table will clash at Emirates Park on Saturday in probably the biggest South African derby of the season thus far.

The Stormers occupy top spot on 23 points, having lost only one game this season to the Sharks, a match where they were the better team throughout but failed to finish the match with enough conviction. They have subsequently bounced back from that defeat with victories over the Brumbies and Jaguares to reclaim top spot in the South African Conference.

The Lions also made a positive start to the season, winning their first two matches, including their first match on tour against a tough Chiefs outfit. Thereafter they stuttered just a bit, losing two matches, both against New Zealand opposition while also winning two. They trail their opponents by five points in the South African Conference.

The Lions remain South Africa's brightest attacking side and are a dangerous prospect at home and Stomers coach Robbie Fleck shares this sentiment

"They are back at home and at altitude, I would think they will stick to their traditional ball-in-hand approach which has worked well for them in the past."

If history is anything to go then we should expect a Stormers victory.

The two sides' head-to-head statistics make for encouraging reading for the Cape side as they have won 11 of the 13 matches, with one draw in 2014.

These days, however, the Lions are a formidable side at home under coach Johan Ackermann. They have won six of their last eight matches in Johannesburg, while they haven't lost a home match to a South African team since they last hosted the Stormers early in 2015.

Ackerman is aware his attack will face one of its toughest tests yet.

"The stats show they are the best defensive side in with the least amount of points against them so we'll have to work hard."

Fleck realises the significance of the match coming up against a team that is considered their biggest challengers for the South African conference.

"We need to perform well, and (the match is important) in terms of our confidence as a team and to confirm the direction we are going in is right."

Lion's winger Courtnall Skosan believes the Cape side are the best in the country as it stands.

"I think the Stormers are the team to beat at the moment when it comes to South African sides."

Much has been made of the impressive Lions attack and influential flyhalf Elton Jantjies has been in prodigious form of late, with many touting him to be the Springbok flyhalf this year.

Stormers co-captain Juan De Jongh says they will be prepared for the threat of Jantjies.

"Elton has been with the Stormers for a season or two, we know what to expect in terms of what he brings to the party."

The match kicks off at 7:15pm on Saturday at Emirates Park.

LIONS

15 Jaco van der Walt, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylon Smith.

Substitutes: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Ruan Ackermann, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Andries Coetzee.

STORMERS

15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Juan de Jongh (co-captain), 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Schalk Burger, 7 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 JD Schickerling, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.

Substitutes: 16 Mike Willemse, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Frans Malherbe (co-captain), 19 Rynhardt Elstadt, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Damian de Allende, 23 Huw Jones.