All eyes on Elton

The quality of Elton Jantjies's attacking play and goal-kicking will influence the result of the crunch derby between the Stormers and Lions at Newlands this Saturday, writes JON CARDINELLI.

The Springboks held a training camp in Cape Town earlier this week, much to the annoyance of the Vodacom Super Rugby coaches. Stormers coach Allister Coetzee bemoaned the absence of a large chunk of his squad in the buildup to a crucial game in the context of the Super Rugby season. While the Lions contributed fewer players to that training exercise, the absence of key players like captain Warren Whiteley and flyhalf Elton Jantjies would certainly have disrupted their preparations.

Of course, Coetzee has every right to be nervous. The Stormers need to win this Saturday to book their spot in the play-offs, and strengthen their claim for a home semi-final. If they lose, it will place them under pressure to win that final league clash against the Sharks to qualify for the last six. Furthermore, if they don't at the very least secure losing bonus points in their final two league fixtures, the Stormers could miss out on the play-offs altogether.

Coetzee is also right to be wary of the Lions. Johan Ackermann's side is largely comprised of no-name brands, and yet, they have played some outstanding rugby in 2015 and obtained some impressive results. They have every reason to believe they can win at Newlands this Saturday, and thus give themselves an outside chance of qualifying for the play-offs.

The Lions won't be wanting for motivation. This may well be the last match of their campaign, as they have a bye in the final round of the league.

The Stormers also have plenty to play for. While the Stormers currently top the South African conference, and are thus in a position to host a qualifying play-off and possibly even a semi-final, that could all change if they lose their last two league games. They will also be wary of losing a game that could well be their coach's final match at Newlands. Coetzee has already confirmed that he will continue his coaching career in Japan later this year.

With so much at stake, it should come as no surprise that both coaches have selected their best available lineups. Indeed, while a side like the Stormers boasts a number of Springboks, the Cape franchise is not really in a position to be resting these stars at this stage of the Super Rugby tournament.

The Lions will test the Stormers at the lineouts and breakdowns. The scrum battle will be one for the front-row connoisseurs. Both packs will be aiming for dominance, and possibly point-scoring opportunities via penalty goals. While both teams have done well at the scrum in 2015, the stats confirm they are yet to use this set piece as an effective attacking launchpad.

The two teams boast very similar defensive records. Regarding the respective attacks, the Lions have only scored one more try (30) than the Stormers in 2015. It's a stat that needs to be seen in perspective, as the Stormers have played one game less than the Lions.

However, the Lions certainly have the ability to turn it on. They've scored 12 tries in their past four matches, and may have scored more if all passes had gone to hand. They have played the game at a high tempo, and the interchange between forwards and backs has been a delight to watch.

Jantjies will have a crucial role to play on attack this Saturday. He will need his pack to fire and keep the Stormers' abrasive defenders in check. If the Lions tick that box, then their flyhalf can bring a dangerous back division into the contest.

Jantjies was excellent in the recent win against the Waratahs at Ellis Park. He played with authority, and took good options on attack.

What was less convincing, however, was his goal-kicking. Jantjies had three opportunities to take the Lions out to a 10-point lead in the latter stages of last week's match. The Lions still did enough to win the game, but had they lost, more would have been made of those three missed penalty attempts.

He needs to find form this Saturday. The Stormers have one of the competition's best goal-kickers in Demetri Catrakilis. The flyhalf doesn't miss many in front of goal, and will be the favourite to finish with another perfect record in the coming contest. Jantjies will have to match Catrakilis if he intends to win the game for his side.

Overall: Stormers: 11, Lions 1
In Cape Town: Stormers 5, Lions 0

– The Stormers’ record victory both in terms of margin and points scored came against the Lions in 2009; a 56-18 win.
– The Lions have won eight of their last 10, while the Stormers have won six of their last seven.
– The last five fixtures between these sides have all seen fewer than 45 points scored on aggregate, and an average of 39 points per game.
– The Stormers (8.8) and Lions (9.8) are two of just three sides to average less than 10 penalties conceded this year.
– When it comes to tries scored from set pieces (lineouts and scrums) with the feed, only the Bulls (14) and Lions (14) rank behind the Stormers (16).

Team Top point-scorer Top try-scorer Most metres gained Most tackles
Stormers Demetri Catrakilis (154) Dillyn Leyds (5) Cheslin Kolbe (962) Nizaam Carr (97)
Lions Elton Jantjies (150) Ruan Combrinck (5) Andries Coetzee (843) Warren Whiteley (213)

Stormers  – 15 Cheslin Kolbe, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen (c), 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Schalk Burger, 5 Manuel Carizza, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Subs: 16 Michael Willemse, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Jean Kleyn, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Jaco Taute.

Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Harold Vorster, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Martin Muller, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Armand van der Merwe, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Subs: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Robert Kruger, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Marnitz Boshoff, 23 Howard Mnisi.

Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa), Quinton Immelman (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

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Photo: Barry Aldworth/BackpagePix

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Jon Cardinelli