The Lions and Stormers face off at Ellis Park on Saturday in what will be a keenly contested South African Super Rugby derby clash.
The Stormers have an opportunity to cut the Lions’ lead at the top of the South African conference to three with a victory or even better two points with a bonus-point win in Johannesburg.
After a rip-roaring start to the season for the Lions, the season has slowed somewhat to a whimper with three losses in the last four games.
In fact, the Lions haven’t lost back-to-back matches since February 2015 when they fell to three in a row. A tally of four wins from seven games with a 57 win percentage in 2018 is simply not good enough for the 2016 and 2017 finalists.
However, the Lions have won their last 17 South African derbies and have not lost such a match on home turf since the Stormers turned them over in February 2015.
Plus, they have averaged five tries per match this season, the best rate of any side in the competition. The return of Ruan Combrinck on the wing will bolster their attacking options even further.
The Stormers, meanwhile, have been plagued by inconsistency and are unable to produce an 80-minute performance yet. They cannot afford to continue making the same mistakes.
Their line-out, for one, has been a shambles, in contrast to the Lions’ which has been near-immaculate. Secondly, they have missed too many tackles. Siya Kolisi has missed more tackles than any other player this season (21), while team-mate Raymond Rhule (19) is second on the list.
Come Saturday, they can ill afford to make the same mistakes against a Lions side set to be far less merciful than they have been this season.
Team news: The Lions are boosted by the return of Ruan Combrinck, who has yet to play this season after suffering a shoulder injury while playing in Japan, replaces Sylvian Mahuza in the side.
Otherwise head coach Swys de Bruin has made just one further change to his XV as Marvin Orie replaces Andries Ferreira for the clash.
There is no place in the matchday squad for recently confirmed signing Nic Groom, who is joining the Lions from Northampton Saints.
Meanwhile, Stormers head coach Robbie Fleck has made some enforced changes to his starting line-up. Injuries to scrum-half Justin Phillips (rib) and flank Cobus Wiese (hamstring) mean that Jano Vermaak and Chris van Zyl come into the run-on side.
Vermaak makes his first start of the season, having returned from injury last week and his place on the replacements bench is taken by Paul de Wet. Van Zyl slots in the second-row alongside Jan de Klerk, with Pieter-Steph du Toit moving to the flank and Jaco Coetzee among the replacements.
2017: Lions won 29-16 in Cape Town
2016: Lions won 29-22 in Johannesburg
2015: The teams drew 19-19 in Cape Town
2015: Stormers won 22-19 in Johannesburg
2014: Stormers won 18-03 Cape Town
2014: Lions won 34-10 in Johannesburg
2012: Stormers won 27-17 in Cape Town
2012: Stormers won 24-19 in Johannesburg
2011: Stormers won 33-19 in Johannesburg
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Madosh Tambwe, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Dillon Smit, 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Franco Mostert (c), 4 Marvin Orie, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylan Smith
Replacements: 16 Corné Fourie, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Marnus Schoeman, 21 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Sylvian Mahuza
Stormers: 15 SP Marais, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Damian De Allende, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Jan de Klerk, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Ramone Samuels, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Kobus van Dyk, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Jaco Coetzee, 22 Paul de Wet, 23 Craig Barry
Date: Saturday, April 7
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Kick-off: 17:15 local (15:15 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa), AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
Television match official: Willie Vos (South Africa)