Preview: Stormers v Lions

Fifth takes on first in the South African Conference this Saturday as the struggling Stormers look to salvage some pride against the Lions.

It's been a disappointing season for Robbie Fleck's men as they are 12 points adrift of the Lions, who are not in the best form themselves.

The Stormers have lost eight games while the Lions haven't fared much better with six defeats, but still hold a mini cushion at the summit. However, with the Jaguares in fine form of late - winning their last five - that could soon be cut as the Argentines have one game in hand.

It would have been unthinkable for the Lions not to finish top of the pile in their Conference after a strong start that saw them win four out of their opening five games. But two slumps in form has seen their buffer reduced, with last week's win over the Brumbies much needed.

This is these sides' final outing before the June international break which adds to its importance as if the Lions (36) were to lose and the Jaguares (29) win then it would be a mouth-watering run-in to the regular season from late June, with the Argentines in the box seat. The Stormers, meanwhile, know it is win or bust for them this weekend, with another defeat set to pile more pressure on head coach Fleck.

What may concern Fleck is that the Lions have won their last three games in a row against the Stormers by an average margin of 14 points; they had previously earned just one win in 13 games against the Cape Town team (D1, L11), so form is certainly with Swys de Bruin's side.

The Stormers though have been largely solid at home this season, having won five out of five before the Chiefs prevailed on May 12. And with seven of the last nine South African derbies having been won by the home team on the day, including each of the last three, that is welcome reading for Stormers' supporters, who will be desperate for a morale-boosting success that would keep their play-off hopes alive.

The last time the teams met: It was a memorable day for Madosh Tambwe in their Round 8 meeting earlier this season as he ran in four tries for the Lions in their 52-31 win in Johannesburg. Lionel Mapoe, Kwagga Smith, Franco Mostert and Ruan Combrinck also crossed while Elton Jantjies kicked 12 points. Wilco Louw, Damian Willemse and Paul de Wet scored tries for the Stormers, who were also awarded a penalty try.

Players to watch:

For Stormers: On a milestone game it is fitting that Sikhumbuzo Notshe is our one to watch, with the dynamic number eight set to be a proud Stormer on Saturday. Such a dangerous carrier who combines well with captain Siya Kolisi, Notshe also knows his way to the try-line so the Newlands faithful will hope he caps his 50th game with a score and more importantly a victory.

For Lions: If the Lions are to win in Cape Town then much rests on Elton Jantjies' shoulders. The Springbok fly-half was in the news this week with rumours of a move to Ulster in the pipeline, but he'll want to do his talking on the pitch on Saturday, with his battle with youngster Jean-Luc du Plessis set to be a highlight. Jantjies' game management alongside Nic Groom though should give them an edge.

Team news: Loose forward Sikhumbuzo Notshe will play his 50th Super Rugby game for the Stormers this weekend.

Notshe’s inclusion at number eight comes as part of a new loose forward combination, with captain Siya Kolisi back in the starting team and Kobus van Dyk shifting to blindside flank. Cobus Wiese and Nizaam Carr will provide cover on the replacements bench.

The only other change to the starting forward pack comes in the second-row, with Jan de Klerk in for Pieter-Steph du Toit, who was ruled out due to illness.

Hooker Bongi Mbonambi and loosehead prop Steven Kitshoff are both back from injury and will feature among the replacements.

The only change to the backline sees Raymond Rhule on the left wing in place of Seabelo Senatla, who has returned to the Springbok Sevens squad, with EW Viljoen and Craig Barry providing cover on the replacements bench.

Meanwhile, Lions head coach Swys de Bruin has rung the changes to his starting line-up for Saturday’s derby match.

There are seven alterations in all with Jacques van Rooyen and Marnus Schoeman returning to the forwards at loosehead prop and on the openside respectively, with Kwagga Smith moving from the side of the scrum to number eight.

In the back-line, Aphiwe Dyantyi moves to the left wing from the midfield which means Harold Vorster returns to the run-on side as Rohan Janse van Rensburg’s centre partner while Ruan Combrinck is back at right wing.

Six changes were made to the bench of which the most notable is Rhyno Herbst’s inclusion as second-row cover.

Form: It's been an inconsistent season for the Stormers as just five wins have been recorded. They are currently on a two-game losing run after going down to the Chiefs and Sunwolves, with their best runs of form in 2018 being two-game winning streaks in March and April/May.

The Lions still sit atop the Conference but are by no means assured of finishing there. Three recent losses were ended with a win against the Brumbies last week, with their Australasian tour seeing them win just one of their four matches. This is vital game in their campaign.

Prediction: With plenty riding on this result, expect a close scoreline at Newlands but we expect the visitors to sneak it. Lions by 3.

Previous results:

2018: Lions won 52-31 in Johannesburg
2017: Lions won 29-16 in Cape Town
2016: Lions won 29-22 in Johannesburg
2015: The teams drew 19-19 in Cape Town
2015: Stormers won 22-19 in Johannesburg
2014: Stormers won 18-3 Cape Town
2014: Lions won 34-10 in Johannesburg
2012: Stormers won 27-17 in Cape Town

The teams:

Stormers: 15 SP Marais, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Kobus van Dyk, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Jan de Klerk, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Ramone Samuels, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Cobus Wiese, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Paul de Wet, 22 EW Viljoen, 23 Craig Barry

Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrink, 13 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Franco Mostert (c), 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Lourens Erasmus, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Jacques Van Rooyen
Replacements: 16 Corne Fourie, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Rhyno Herbst, 20 Hacjivah Dayimani, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Madosh Tambwe, 23 Sylvian Mahuza

Date: Saturday, May 26
Venue: Newlands
Kick-off: 17:15 (15:15 GMT)
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman (South Africa), Stephan Geldenhuys (South Africa)
Television match official: Christie du Preez (South Africa)