Some are calling Saturday’s Newlands showdown between the Stormers and Lions a “watershed affair”, while others have said both teams are at the “crossroads” as the Vodacom Super 14 competition goes into its fifth round this weekend.
Both teams have had disappointing starts to the season with the star-studded Stormers having managed just one win from four outings, while the Lions, too, have one victory to show for their efforts from three matches. Defeat for the Stormers would leave them with too much to do to push for a semifinal place and heap plenty of pressure on them before their overseas tour, which consists of five matches.
For the Lions, it is a match they would dearly love to win, but as it’s an away game, defeat would not be considered a train smash by the coaching staff. But with the team set to face the Hurricanes and Brumbies on consecutive weekends at Coca-Cola Park before heading to Australasia, this is a big weekend for coach Eugene Eloff and Co.
Jacques van der Westhuyzen writes for The Star that Lions captain Cobus Grobbelaar admitted yesterday that while the match would not “make or break” his team’s challenge, a victory would go a long way in boosting the confidence of the side.
“Every time we go on to the field, there’s pressure to win,” said Grobbelaar. “Up to now, we’ve played in fits and starts and if we’re to beat the Stormers, we’re going to need an 80-minute performance.”
To provide some extra grunt up front, Eloff has turned to veteran lock Jannes Labuschagne, who’ll pack down in the second row and seek to sort out the Lions’ lineout woes which have dogged them up to now. “He brings a lot of experience, maturity and weight to the pack and I’m confident he’ll give us some added ‘go’ up front,” said Eloff about the 32-year-old, whose last Super rugby match was in April 2006.
Labuschagne himself was all smiles yesterday. “I’m so looking forward to the match … it’s been a long time,” he said. “I just want to go out there and enjoy myself and if I can walk off the field injury-free I’ll be a happy man,” he joked.
As expected, Eloff also included Barry Goodes in place of Doppies la Grange at inside centre, while Franco van der Merwe returns to the side of the scrum.
Meanwhile, John Smit has been picked at tighthead prop for the Sharks’ clash against the Reds tomorrow morning. He takes over from Jannie du Plessis who’ll sit on the bench, with his brother, Bismarck, filling the hooker’s berth.
In this morning’s matches, the Blues tackle the Cheetahs and the Brumbies entertain the Waratahs.Tweet