Lions hope to end 13-match Stormers losing streak

The Lions are hoping that they can prove last week’s surprise Super Rugby victory over the Cheetahs was not a lucky win and also bring an end to a 13 match losing streak against the Stormers.

The Lions have played the Stormers 17 times in Super Rugby and although they won their first four matches they have lost their last 13 matches against the Cape based franchise.

This week Johannesburg franchise will face a different challenge against the defence-orientated Strormers who will be in their first match of the season after their bye of last week.

While the Capetonians have been plagued with injuries in the off-season, history suggests that the Stormers wield the upper hand in previous matchups.

The Lions have not beaten the Stormers in the nine matches they have met since the Cats franchise was dissolved before the 2006 season.

Stormers coach Allister Coetzee is, however, cautious about the challenge ahead, particularly after the Lions’ performance against the Cheetahs.

“The Lions showed over the weekend that in Super Rugby any team can beat any (other) team,” Coetzee said.

“They were great at the breakdowns and their coach has an attacking mindset, which worked wonders for the team in last season’s Absa Currie Cup competition.

“We also won’t lose sight of the fact that the match will be on the Highveld and the Lions have a reputation for pulling out all the stops in the final 20 minutes.”

The Stormers have named two debutantes in the backline with Kobus van Wyk and Michael van der Spuy earning their first Super Rugby starts.

While their near impenetrable defence have proved effective in keeping the opposition off their tryline, the Stormers found it equally difficult to get over the whitewash.

It would be interesting to gauge whether the Stormers would be able to strike a balance between a defensive and attacking approach.

Lions coach Johan Ackermann is nevertheless wary of the coastal side’s defensive nous and has made contingency plans.

“We know the Stormers have the best defence in the competition, but we have a couple of plans to counter it so hopefully it works,” Ackermann said.

“You need a lot of patience when you play the Stormers because you will not get past them easily, so you have to wait for that opportunity.”

Ackermann stuck with continuity when he selected his side for the clash making a single injury-enforced change to the team that beat the Cheetahs.

Outside centre Lionel Mapoe suffered a hamstring injury that would keep him sidelined for six weeks with Alwyn Hollenbach called up into the side as his replacement. Hollenbach will partner with Stefan Watermeyer, who will move to outside centre.

The Stormers may be going into the match with a new-look backline but most of the risk would come from their pack of forwards which include a Springbok loose forward trio of Schalk Burger, Duane Vermeulen and Siya Kolisi.

The match will also be another opportunity flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff to continue with the fine form he has carried through from last year’s Currie Cup season.

Boshoff was the shining star in his side’s victory in Bloemfontein where he contributed all of his side’s points with six penalty conversions and a drop goal at the death.

He will come up against Demetri Catrakilis, who will hoping to stake a claim for the number-10 jersey after he played for the Southern Kings in last year’s Super Rugby competition.

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