Lions aim to copy Cape Town win

Lions aim to copy Cape Town win

The Lions remain the only South African team to have ever beaten the DHL Stormers at DHL Stadium in Cape Town, and they must repeat this piece of history to create more history in booking their first trip to the BKT URC play-offs.

The DHL Stormers’ home debut in the competition was spoiled when the Emirates Lions comfortably beat the eventual champions 37-19 in December, 2021.

Stung by the result, the DHL Stormers have since turned their arena into a bunker, having lost a total of four BKT URC matches in the shadow of Table Mountain, and they head into the final round of the 2023-24 league phase having already qualified for the last eight.

Three-time Super Rugby finalists, the Emirates Lions have yet to qualify for the BKT URC play-offs. Ivan van Rooyen’s charges are currently in ninth place and, even though they cannot overtake the DHL Stormers (5th) on the standings, a famous win in Cape Town on Saturday will catapult them into the quarter-finals, lifting them above whoever loses when Benetton (8th) host Edinburgh (7th).

The DHL Stormers may still have the claw marks to show for a season-opening 35-33 victory at Emirates Airline Park that saw the Emirates Lions fight back from a 20-point half-time deficit to chase the Cape side to the final whistle.

Speaking in the buildup to this week’s rematch, Emirates Lions assistant coach Jaque Fourie acknowledged the challenge that awaits in the Mother City.

Regarded as one of the finest centres of his generation, the 2007 Springbok World Cup winner was a powerful presence in midfield for the Emirates Lions and DHL Stormers during a decorated 15-year career.

“We know what is at stake; we have to get a win, and a win with a bonus point would be even better,” Fourie said. “That’s just the crux of the situation.

“We all know that whenever your back is against the wall and you’ve got nothing to lose then you’re a dangerous team.

“We don’t mind going into this game as underdogs [but] the way that we’ve been playing the last three or four games we’ve got a lot of confidence and hopefully we just continue with that confidence on Saturday.”

Scrumhalf Morne van den Berg, who has scored five tries in 17 appearances in the 2023-24 Vodacom URC, is relishing the opportunity to enter the den of the inaugural champions.

“Obviously the DHL Stormers have been very good at DHL Stadium," he explained.

"If you look deeper into it we can take a bit of confidence from that win [in 2021-22] but at this stage we’re going to look at ourselves and what we need to do.”

Inspirational Emirates Lions playmaker Sanele Nohamba will be key to an upset win, knowing that a top performance can only improve his chances of a call-up to the Springbok squad to face Wales at Twickenham on 22 June.

Nohamba’s transition from scrumhalf to flyhalf has been at the centre of the Emirates Lions’ success this season, directing traffic but also building up his resume as a quality goal-kicker.

The 25-year-old is sixth on the current leading points-scorers standings in the BKT URC with 101, earning the respect – and a wary eye – of the competition’s top sharpshooter in back-to-back campaigns, DHL Stormers pivot Manie Libbok.

“The Emirates Lions have quality players in their team and they will come out here to give it a proper crack, with it being the last round and a chance for them to get into the play-offs,” Libbok said.

"I’m stoked with how Sanele's going and am happy for him. You can see that he is enjoying his rugby. I am just looking forward to the game and doing the job I have to do."

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