The British and Irish Lions will be aiming to bounce back from their first defeat of the tour when they round off their warm-up schedule against the Stormers on Saturday.
The Cape Town outfit – who recently played in the PRO14 Rainbow Cup and will be part of the United Rugby Championship when it launches next season – will be the third provincial side the tourists have faced, following a win against the Sigma Lions and two victories over the Sharks.
A clash with South Africa ‘A’ on Wednesday – an encounter viewed by many as a de facto fourth Test – saw the Lions beaten 17-13, and they will hope to recover quickly before the Test series gets under way for real on July 24.
Here, the PA news agency takes a closer look at the Stormers.
The Stormers – along with the Sharks, Bulls and Lions – were formerly part of Super Rugby, finishing as runners-up in 2010 and winning the South African Conference in 2011, 2012 and 2015. All South African teams were withdrawn from the competition in 2020 with a view to joining an expanded PRO14, and the formation of the URC – consisting of the four South African sides alongside the existing 12 PRO14 teams – was announced last month, following the Stormers’ participation in the Rainbow Cup. There had been talk that their clash with the tourists could be brought forward to swap places with South Africa ‘A’ as the Springboks tackled a coronavirus outbreak and, although Wednesday’s meeting went ahead as planned, speculation continued that the Stormers could be replaced by a second clash with the host nation’s ‘A’ team this weekend.
The Stormers finished second in the PRO14 Rainbow Cup SA, although they benefited to the tune of four points from the cancellation of their final fixture against the Lions of Johannesburg, which edged them clear of the third-placed Sharks. John Dobson’s side developed a habit of finding themselves in closely contested affairs during the competition, with four points the biggest margin of victory in any of their five matches. The Stormers were beaten at home by both the table-topping Bulls and the Sharks but were able to gain revenge over the latter in Durban. A Western Province Currie Cup side featuring 12 of the men who will start against the Lions on Saturday suffered a 30-28 defeat to Griquas last week.
Dobson was handed the Stormers reins at the end of the 2019 season having been part of the Western Province set-up – the team around which the Stormers are centred – since 2010, guiding the Vodacom Cup side to glory in 2012. He was linked with a move to Harlequins to replace Paul Gustard earlier this year but that job eventually went to former All Blacks centre Tabai Matson.
The Stormers will be without the eight players they have contributed to the Springboks squad for the Lions series – a contingent that includes the likes of Pieter-Steph Du Toit, Steven Kitshoff and Bongi Mbonambi, who is set to join the Sharks later this year. Of those remaining, Edwill Van Der Merwe was the leading try-scorer across both hemispheres in the Rainbow Cup, while Tim Swiel pulled off a couple of match-winning kicks and Evan Roos was a menace at the breakdown. All three will feature from the start against the Lions.