Stormers ready to rain on Lions’ playoff charge

The DHL Stormers have welcomed the challenge of hosting the highly-motivated Lions in the final round, despite missing star playmaker Damian Willemse.

Already through to the Vodacom URC playoffs, the DHL Stormers will host the Lions in the final round of action in Cape Town on Saturday afternoon.

The ninth-placed Lions will be desperate for any positive result on Saturday as the visitors look to secure a place in the URC’s top eight for the first time in their history.

Speaking ahead of the North-South clash, backline coach Dawie Snyman says the Stormers are welcoming the challenge of a big South African derby before the URC playoffs next weekend.

“We are not looking past the Lions. They are a quality side and will be coming down to Cape Town to get something out of the game. We are expecting quite a tough game.

“The Lions will come down on a mission. There is a lot at stake for them. Also, they don’t know what they need. So their first goal will be to beat us.

“Saying that, we are focusing on ourselves. We know what the Lions will bring. We’ve already analysed them, we know their strengths and where there might be one or two opportunities for us.

“Our motivation will be to put up a good Stormers performance. It’s actually good that the Lions are coming down with a lot of motivation, because they will test us and we need that kind of test.”

Although the Stormers have welcomed scrumhalf Paul de Wet and wing Ben Loader back to full training this week, after both missed the two-match tour, they will be without Damian Willemse.

The influential Springbok utility back had to go under the knife on a finger ligament injury which has brought his season to a premature end.

Snyman said the Stormers will look to either Wandisile Simelane or Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, who is also recovering from a finger injury, to take Willemse’s place in midfield, while Manie Libbok and Warrick Gelant will take on a greater leadership role.

“Losing Damian is a massive blow. He brings a lot of leadership in the group and we all know he’s a great player,” Snyman said.

“We have got other options. We’ve got Wandi and Sacha who can go to centre. Those guys will have to step up. We are also relying on Manie and Warrick to fill that void that Damian will leave, they will step up and take the leadership, which they have been doing.

“It’s never nice to lose a big player like that, but it is an opportunity for the youngsters.”

While their place in the last eight is already secure, the Stormers will not be throwing a “B-team” into action against the Lions, as they have emphasised continuity ahead of the playoffs.

“With our selection, we will try to build a bit of depth in one or two areas, but we also want to stick with certain combinations that we know will be important,” Snyman explained.

“The guys didn’t play last weekend, so we don’t want their last game – after this one – to be three weeks ago before a quarter-final. Cohesion is important for us at this stage and we want to keep building on that.

“We made a decision as a team a few weeks ago that we need to go into playoff mode,” Snyman added. “We went on tour knowing we had to win both games after the loss to the Ospreys.

“It’s the same thing for Saturday. We have to win. It’s important for us. Whether it’s by one point or two, it doesn’t matter. As team, we never speak about the bad news, we always look at what we can do it win games. That focus will stay the same this week.”

Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

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