Cape Town — Lions coach Swys de Bruin has come out in defence of under-fire Stormers coach Robbie Fleck ahead of Saturday's Super Rugby clash between the sides at Newlands.
Fleck has had a tough week following this past Saturday's 40-3 hammering at the hands of the Bulls at Loftus in what is his last contracted season as head coach.
The Stormers were woeful in 2018, too, missing out on the tournament playoffs as they finished second-bottom in the South African Conference.
The Lions, meanwhile, have contested the last three Super Rugby finals and they were off to a winning start in 2019 with a hard-fought 25-16 win over the Jaguares in Buenos Aires.
In front of the Cape Town media on Thursday, Fleck insisted that he was not feeling any pressure, but there is no doubt that the heat has been turned up.
"You almost laugh," De Bruin said of the criticism being hurled Fleck's way currently.
"If you look at that Bulls side, it's a massive team. They have a Springbok spin. Schalk (Brits), then Lood (De Jager), then Duane (Vermeulen), two Springbok scrumhalves, Handre Pollard, then (Warrick) Gelant ... that's a Springbok spine.
"It was an away game for Robbie and the guys and I think the hype is way too much after that first game.
"How many times have the Crusaders won the cup after losing the first game? It's early days and way too soon to make an issue about it."
De Bruin added that the Lions would be foolish to underestimate the Stormers on Saturday.
"Not even close. It's Newlands, Cape Town and it's a very proud franchise," he said.
"They'll bounce back like never before and we all know that. We believe what happened at Loftus was a case of them maybe underestimating the Bulls. They are still a very strong side and I think they've got maybe 11 or 12 Springboks in their set-up. We are under no illusions.
"For us, it's the first South African derby game and it's nothing but that. If we look at previous results we will be making a big mistake."
Kick-off on Saturday is at 17:15.
15 Damian Willemse, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 SP Marais, 10 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ali Vermaak
Substitutes: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Eben Etzebeth, 20 Jaco Coetzee, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Joshua Stander, 23 Dan du Plessis
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Ruan Combrinck, 10 Elton Jantjies 9 Nic Groom, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Kwagga Smith, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Marvin Orie, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylan Smith
Substitutes: 16 Pieter Jansen, 17 Jacobie Adriaanse, 18 Sti Sithole, 19 Rhyno Herbst, 20 Hacjivah Dayimani, 21 Gianni Lombard, 22 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 23 Sylvian Mahuza