Jacques van Rooyen. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
Jacques van Rooyen. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

It is a case of one step forward and two steps back for the Stormers at the moment‚ but they are regrouping in an effort to claim their first away win of the season when they meet the Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday.

Their inconsistency was underlined by a disappointing performance against the Bulls at Loftus last weekend‚ which has piled pressure on the Cape side.

The 33-23 loss was their fourth defeat in seven games in 2018. Coming after two good home wins against the Blues and Reds‚ where they seemed to be heading in the right direction‚ the performance against the Bulls was perplexing.

The Stormers forwards were massacred at the first scrum of the game‚ which appeared to rob the team of confidence.

That insecurity then seeped into the remainder of the match as they lost the contact points and battled for possession.

Losing is one thing‚ but losing with such a meek performance is another. Two yellow cards also hurt the Stormers and allowed the Bulls to use their driving maul from the lineout to hurt the visitors.

With the Lions to come this Saturday‚ there is little margin for error. The Stormers have to find a way to put their season back on course immediately.

"We are massively disappointed with the performance on Saturday‚" forwards coach Russell Winter said.

"We didn’t keep the ball in the right areas of the field‚ we didn’t have too much ball and our discipline let us down‚ which put us under pressure.

"Obviously one of the aspects we worked on since being back at training is stopping rolling mauls‚ because that hurt us. Other big work this week has been ball security and looking after possession."

Winter said he was expecting the team to show a positive response to the setback against the Lions.

It’s a vital game for both teams, with the Lions coming off back-to-back losses for the first time in three years.

It’s a rare position for the Lions in recent seasons and despite topping the SA conference‚ they are only seven points clear of the Stormers.

• They may be unbeaten in 19 Super Rugby derby matches‚ but the Lions will be at their most vulnerable against the Stormers.

They have lost three of their past four matches and their only win in that period came by just one point at home over the Sunwolves. They have‚ however‚ dominated their conference in recent seasons with 13 of their 19 consecutive derby wins achieved by a winning margin of more than 12 points.

Their last defeat came against the Bulls at Loftus in May 2015‚ while their last home defeat in a derby came in February 2015 when the Stormers won 22-19.

No-nonsense loosehead prop Jacques van Rooyen explained why the Lions warm to a familiar foe in derby matches. "There is that extra motivation to prove yourself against your countrymen. After the game they must know they played against one of the better sides in Super Rugby."

Of late, however‚ the Lions’ claws have been clipped. Their home ground‚ where altitude has proved such a useful ally against overseas teams‚ no longer insulates.

"All the other teams come prepared and conditioned‚" said Van Rooyen. "They’ve come to realise the times we target in the game. Those times when we press hard they tend to keep the ball and deny us access to possession. That way we can’t tire them with our running game.

"The onus is on us to keep possession until they tire. You reap the rewards from their fatigue later in the game."

Van Rooyen is preparing himself for a particularly confrontational battle against the Stormers’ vaunted front row, which will bristle after the Bulls put their noses out of joint at Loftus.