Lloyd Burnard – Sport24
Cape Town – The Stormers are expecting to lose their perfect defensive record in Super Rugby this season when they travel to Ellis Park for a clash against the Lions on Saturday.
Two wins from two – against the Hurricanes (27-0) and then Bulls (13-0) at home – left the Stormers on top of the South African Conference and overall log heading into round three of fixtures. More impressive than that, however, is the fact that they have not conceded a point along the way.
With this the final season at Newlands before an almost certain move to Cape Town Stadium in 2021, the Stormers are more motivated than ever to turn the iconic stadium into a fortress one last time and that mentality is reflecting in their defensive efforts.
An undeniably physical pack has helped, while defence coach Norman Laker is receiving the necessary plaudits.
Head coach John Dobson knows, however, that his side’s defensive lines will be breached at some point and he believes that it could happen on Saturday at what he considers a historically high-scoring venue.
The Lions, having gone down to the Jaguares (38-8) in Buenos Aires before edging the Reds (27-20) at home last weekend, are a new-look side and appear some way off the title-challengers they were under Johan Ackerman and Swys de Bruin from 2016-2018.
There is still enough quality there to suggest that they can hurt sides when they get it right, though, and Dobson is expecting there to be more disruption to the scoreboard this weekend.
“There is going to be a ‘wooh-wooh-wooh’ moment from the first team that scores against us and of course it’s going to happen,” Dobson told media at Newlands on Thursday.
“I’m interested in the tries column. I accept that they’re going to kick penalties.
“It’s going to happen, and we expect that, but we’ve got a certain standard.
“Ellis Park, by nature, is where you’d have an All Blacks game there 15 years ago and it was 44-40 where at Newlands it’s 12-3.
“I think if you go to Ellis Park and concede one or two tries, you’ve won the game.
“I definitely want to see the same standard defensively, because I think we can set a competition marker down there.”
While keeping up that intensity and clinical effectiveness of defence is obviously high up on Dobson’s list of priorities, he also wants to see an improved and more ruthless attacking display.
“I want to see us attack with a bit more rhythm,” he said.
The Stormers go into the match without injured Springbok scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies, who is replaced by Godlen Masimla, while the Lions have selected the returning Willem Alberts on their bench.
“I’m very excited about Godlen,” Dobson added.
“He’s a guy who has been through the trials and tribulations.
“Physically and in terms of his kicking game, he’s a different person to what he was so I’m really excited for this opportunity for him.”
Kick-off is at 15:05 on Saturday.
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Tyrone Green, 13 Manuel Rass, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies (captain), 9 Morne van den Berg, 8 Len Massyn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Pieter Jansen, 1 Dylan Smith
Substitutes: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Hacjivah Dayimani, 22 Dillon Smit, 23 Wandisile Simelane
15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Godlen Masimla, 8 Juarno Augustus, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Johan du Toit, 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Scarra Ntubeni, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain)
Substitutes: 16 Chad Solomon, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Cobus Wiese, 21 Ernst van Rhyn, 22 Paul de Wet, 23 Jean-Luc du Plessis