The Lions are fully ready for the challenge of the Stormers as the teams go head to head in their United Rugby Championship clash at the Cape Town City Stadium on Saturday afternoon (kickoff 5pm).
Both teams haven’t played for over a month after finishing their four match UK and EU tours in mid October, and seeing their home fixtures against foreign opposition postponed, but are now ready to battle it out in their rescheduled derby match up.
Lions assistant coach Ricardo Loubscher believes the break in play came at the perfect time for the team and they are 100% ready mentally for this weekend’s game.
“The last three to four weeks have been brilliant for us. It was nice to get a break and start from zero again. Our preparation in terms of mental fatigue is fine, what I’ve seen in training over the last three to four weeks is great,” admitted Loubscher.
“It was disappointing not to have a game last week, but if I look at the energy in the players this week there’s a buzz, the guys can’t wait to get out on the field on Saturday and get a measurement of where we are as a team in terms of our growth.”
The Lions have played the Stormers many times in the past, with almost all of their matches in Cape Town taking place at Newlands, however they now face a new challenge with a different pitch on offer at the Cape Town Stadium.
“It is more about preparation from a players point of view, the conditions in that stadium are different so that might be a challenge for us, so the captain’s run will be all about assessing those conditions and readying ourselves for them,” said Loubscher.
The Lions will also be welcoming back a few players from injury, who were unavailable for their four week tour at the start of the campaign.
This includes bollocking utility forward Willem Alberts and young utility back Tiaan Swanepoel who will both likely feature off the bench.
Swanepoel has a massive boot and the coaches would have given a lot of thought of whether to slot him straight back in at flyhalf with Jordan Hendrikse and Eddie Fouche still out with injuries, however they decided to go with the experienced head of Fred Zeilinga.
“We felt that with Tiaan having just come back from a long term injury it wasn’t right to slot him straight in, but we wanted him to be a part of the team,” explained Loubscher.
“Fred is one of our most experienced players and we just thought going to Cape Town for a local derby we want some older heads in the mix. But I think Tiaan is excited to just get an opportunity to play again.”