Lions confident ahead of Stormers clash

Johan Ackermann. Picture: Gallo Images

Playing at altitude and buoyed by a victory in their opening Super Rugby match of the season, Lions coach Johan Ackermann believes his side can beat the Stormers at Ellis Park on Saturday.

The Lions passed their first test after some scepticism of their chances in the competition when they beat the Cheetahs 21-20 in a gutsy display in Bloemfontein over the weekend.

Ackermann retained the team that surprised the Cheetahs on their home ground with the exception of an injury enforced change in the midfield.

“We are used to the pressure and how the referees make the calls, so those small little things will help and the fact that the guys got that first game out of the way — the uncertainty about where you are,” Ackermann said at the team announcement in Johannesburg on Thursday.

“Hopefully the tempo, the heat and the altitude will work for us but it is still an interesting game lying ahead.”

Alwyn Hollenbach has been called into the starting XV in the place of the injured Lionel Mapoe and will play at inside centre with Stefan Watermeyer moving to the outside.

In the only other changes to the match-day 23 MB Lusaseni comes in for the injured Willie Britz where he will play off the bench, while JW Jonker has been included as utility back.

Ackermann said while he made only one change to the side he still had to ponder over which players to slot in where.

“There were still a few choices we had to make on the way we want to play but the team deserved another opportunity to play and especially after last week,” he said.

The Stormers have been forced to make bold selections after some of their stalwarts suffered injuries in the pre-season, and Ackermann believed they could capitilise on the coastal side’s untested combinations.

“I think they are a bit unsettled as well, it is always difficult to make changes and some of your frontline players aren’t there but looking at the team there is still quality and they still have a lot of self-belief,” Ackermann said.

“You’ve got the leaders in the side like Jean de Villiers, Duane Vermeulen and all those guys, but it obviously helps if a Eben Etzebeth and a Juan de Jongh are there.”

Ackermann will be watching the Vodacom Cup match between the Golden Lions and the Pumas with a keen eye as flyhalf Elton Jantjies and wing Anthony Volmink will get their first runs of the season playing off the bench.

Tickets sales for Saturday’s game have already gone over the 40,000 mark and the Stormers could face the Lions in front of a sold-out Ellis Park.

Lions captain Warren Whiteley said opening their Super Rugby season with a victory would give his side a confidence boost for their match against the Capetonians.

“It is important especially for the 11 debutantes to start your Super Rugby career with a win,” Whiteley.

“The win last week put some confidence within our supporters and we want to carry on with that.”

Meanwhile, the Golden Lions Rugby Union announced Xerox as the new title sponsor for the Currie Cup team.

They will be the naming rights sponsor for the 2014 and 2016 competitions.

The Lions team is: Chrysander Botha, Deon van Rensburg, Stefan Watermeyer, Alwyn Hollenbach, Ruan Combrinck, Marnitz Boshoff, Faf de Klerk, Warren Whiteley (captain), Derick Minnie, Jaco Kriel, Franco van der Merwe,Franco Mostert, Julian Redelinghuys, Robbie Coetzee, Schalk van der Merwe.

Replacements: Willie Wepener, Jacques van Rooyen, Ruan Dreyer, MB Lusaseni, Warwick Tecklenburg, Ross Cronje, JW Jonker, Coenie van Wyk.


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