What does Stormers have in store for Lions?

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It isn’t always about just having a go with ball in hand, or running from their own tryline when it’s on. They have varied their game well, and have played the situations. Against the Brumbies, they executed their kicking tactics brilliantly while against the Bulls, their set-piece play helped them to victory.

Against the Jaguares, the Stormers defended like animals in Buenos Aires. And against the Sunwolves last Friday, their attack was good and they sliced open the poor Japanese side with pace, skill and great offloading.

The Cape side basically had a plan for each of their opponents that they’ve faced so far. So what will coach Robbie Fleck have in store for the in-form Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday, a team who have played some very impressive rugby this season?

The packs are similar in terms of their strengths and weaknesses, so the possession stakes should be 50-50. If the Stormers had Eben Etzebeth at the front of their lineout, though, they could probably have won that battle.

There could be a case for the Stormers to try and play like they did against the Brumbies, with plenty of kicking for field position and contesting heavily at the breakdown. But that basically means that they will be inviting the Lions to have a go at them, which could be a big mistake.

The Lions, on attack, are more creative than the Brumbies who string several phases together, and may break the line with a strong runner, but are generally easy to defend against.

Johan Ackermann’s men will certainly run the ball back a lot more and look to keep it alive. They also get quick ball at the breakdown, as their loose forwards recycle possession really well.

When they get quick ball, flyhalf Elton Jantjies almost gathers the ball right under the opposition players’ noses. And, more often than not, they get over or break the advantage line.

The Lions’ loose trio also thrive at the breakdown against predictable teams who just bash the ball up. They flood the breakdown in the hope of creating a turnover so they can strike on the counter. Last week, the Sharks ran into brick walls against the Lions because they didn’t have the ability to vary their game, and were hammered on the ground.

However, the Lions don’t enjoy it when the opposition compete strongly at the breakdown and attack them in the wide channels. The Crusaders were superb in both these areas when they met in Johannesburg and exposed the home side’s defensive frailties.

Yes, the Lions play the attacking game better than any South African team at the moment, but teams who just go up there and try and hold them off generally come off second best.

The Stormers are a good enough side to beat the Lions on their home turf. If they can make their one-on-one tackles and secure their own ball at the breakdown, there will be more than enough space for them to exploit out wide.

Stormers centre Damian de Allende said this week that their new all-encompassing game plan is a work in progress, “something we are still trying to get better at, and I think we are on the right road”.

On Saturday, against the Lions, that is precisely the path they have to follow to pull the Lions’ teeth. - Cape Times

Original source: What does Stormers have in store for Lions?

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