Super Rugby 2020: Lions vs Stormers
Venue: Emirates Airlines Park, Johannesburg (SA)
Date: Saturday, 15 February 2020
The Stormers have started this Super Rugby campaign in a way no franchise ever has since the beginning of the competition back in 1996. The Capetonians were able to win successive matches without conceding a point in the opening two rounds as they took down the Hurricanes 27-0 and the Bulls 13-0. It is worth noting that both of those matches were at home – while this clash will be on the road in Johannesburg – but it is still a stunning achievement as they go for a hat-trick of games holding their opponents to nil.
The Lions have one win and one defeat on the season after picking up a quality bounce-back victory last time out. Losing to the Jaguares in Argentina in Round 1 was perhaps to be expected as the new season got underway while defending home turf against the Reds last week in a 27-20 win showed that the Lions can both score points and grind a game out when necessary to preserve a lead.
It is hard to see the Lions being zeroed by the Stormers here not least because it is hard to imagine a game where Lions fly-half Elton Jantjies goes without kicking a single penalty goal. He is already over 1,000 points for his career. It will be interesting to see how the Stormers play knowing that such a prolific goalkicker is facing them in the opposition No. 10 jersey.
The Lions’ turnover from the 2019 season to the 2020 Super Rugby competition has been dramatic. Less than 50% of the players who took part in the corresponding fixture last yeat will be on display for the Lions on Saturday, such has been the turnover in their squad in the wake of the expected post-World Cup exodus.
The only change to the starting lineup from the win over the Reds sees Manuel Rass – a former Junior Springbok – slot into the No. 13 jumper ahead of Duncan Matthews. There is also one important change on the bench as Springbok mauler Willem Alberts has been named as an interchange player. Alberts – who recently arrived from Stade Francais – was not expected to be in contention here as he recovers from a bicep issue. His inclusion gives the Lions a bruising option for Ivan van Rooyen to deploy from the bench when he sees fit.
The Stormers’ chances of starting their campaign with a 3-0 record have been dealt a pair of blows through injuries this week. Electrifying scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies and back row specialist Jaco Coetzee have both been ruled out of the match and are to be replaced by Godlen Masimla and Juarno Augustus respectively. The addition of Augustus to the side in the No. 8 role means that Johan du Toit will shift to openside flank where he and his brother Pieter-Steph will be looking for heavy carries and excellent work at the breakdown.
The other change in the Stormers starting XV sees Wilco Louw starting at tighthead prop ahead of Frans Malherbe who will enter the fray from the bench.
The issues at scrumhalf and in the back row for the Stormers are massive in this contest. Jantjies at No. 9 has become a massively important player for the Cape Town side and his loss suddenly makes the Lions look pretty good value at 1.60 with BetXChange to upset the Stormers, especially when you consider this game is on their home patch. Go with the home dogs to win outright here.