Catrakilis key for Stormers

The goal-kicking and game management of Demetri Catrakilis will shape the outcome of the South African derby at Ellis Park, writes JON CARDINELLI.

The pre-season promises of all-out attacking rugby have not materialised. The Stormers have beaten the Vodacom Bulls, and more recently the Blues, by playing a smart and controlled brand of football.

Duane Vermeulen has proved an inspirational leader. He's led by example, both as an abrasive ball-carrier and defender. His decision-making as a captain has been excellent.

Of course, it's helped to have a kicker of Catrakilis's quality at his disposal.The flyhalf has kicked well out of hand, and for goal. Catrakilis will have a big role to play in what should be a close contest at Ellis Park.

The Stormers will not have forgotten what transpired on their last visit to this venue. The defeat was their first at Ellis Park, and the margin of that defeat (34-10) was embarrassing. 

On that occasion, it was Marnitz Boshoff who did the bulk of the damage for the Lions with his accurate boot. Unfortunately for the Lions, Boshoff has struggled during the first two rounds of this year's competition.

Coach Johan Ackermann has responded by dropping Boshoff from the match 23. Elton Jantjies has been preferred at No 10, and Faf de Klerk at No 9. A new front row has been selected after the Lions' scrum struggles in Durban last week. The return of Jaco Kriel should boost their efforts at the breakdown.

The Stormers are still without Eben Etzebeth, and recently lost Rynhardt Elstadt to a long-term knee injury. Elstadt's replacement, Nizaam Carr, is a different sort of player, and the dynamic of the back row will change with his inclusion.

They may have won two games, but the fact remains: the Stormers are an inexperienced side and a visit to the highveld will test some of their younger players.

The Stormers must look to win field position before unleashing their backline. And, as has been the case in the past two weeks, if they have a chance to kick for goal, they must take it.

Overall: Lions 5, Stormers 13
In Johannesburg: Lions 3, Stormers 7
*Includes results of Cats franchise (1998-2005)

– The Stormers have won 12 of their last 13 matches between the sides.
– Their most recent meeting in April 2014 was the lowest-scoring contest between these teams (21 combined points).
– The Stormers are one of two sides to win all of their scrums so far this season.
– Opponents of the Lions have spent the least amount of time in possession so far, an average of 11 minutes, three seconds.

Team Top point-scorer Top try-scorer Most metres gained Most tackles
Lions Marnitz Boshoff (15) Ruan Combrinck (1) Derick Minnie (81) Warwick Tecklenburg & Warren Whiteley (12)
Stormers Demetri Catrakilis (27) Dillyn Leyds (2) Cheslin Kolbe (144) Michael Rhodes (17)

Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Sampie Mastriet, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klek, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Martin Muller, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Subs: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Robert Kruger, 20 Derick Minnie, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Jaco van der Walt, 23 Howard Mnisi.

Stormers – 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Johnny Kotze, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen (c), 7 Michael Rhodes, 6 Nizaam Carr, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Jurie van Vuuren, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Manuel Carizza, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Huw Jones.

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Photo: Ryan Wilisky/Backpagepix

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Jon Cardinelli