Johannesburg - If the Golden Lions want to keep their playoff hopes alive, they need to end Western Province's unbeaten run when the two sides meet in a Currie Cup clash at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The Lions have won both their home games so far this season, and intend to keep that record intact with a playoff berth in sight, coach Johan Ackermann said. However, they will be wary of a WP side who are equally potent on the road as they are at home in Cape Town.
A fortnight ago, WP broke the Blue Bulls' winning streak at Loftus Versfeld - both in Currie Cup and the Super Rugby competition - with a 23-18 victory.
WP also held the advantage having beaten the Lions 27-14 at Newlands last month. At the time, the Lions had been struck a debilitating blow at the 11th hour and went into battle with an unrecognised flyhalf. Centre Stokkies Hanekom had to move to pivot for the injured Jaco van der Walt, which left the team at a tactical disadvantage.
The Lions would not have that problem this time around, with Van der Walt back in the No 10 jersey.
"We set out that we want to win all of our home games, where we are comfortable with the field and everything is familiar so the players are more at ease," Ackermann said.
"It is a game for us that we want to win but we know we are playing an in-form Province, so it will be a massive challenge.
"Every side has worked out that winning home you are halfway there, so you just need to pick up one or two away wins."
Western Province had dished up an attractive brand of rugby since the start of the Currie Cup season with their outside backs playing with reckless abandon on attack. Added to that, they received some good news this week that dynamic fullback Cheslin Kolbe had been declared fit for the clash.
The pint-sized player had been a crucial cog in Province's success this season, and his skills would add to what Ackermann predicted would be an entertaining encounter.
"They do attack from further out, taking more risks when you kick on them or when they get turnover ball. In the past few years, when you kicked on them, there was a good chance they would kick the ball back.
"That makes them dangerous and with the Sevens players they have brought in, they haven't restricted them too much and have given them a bit more freedom to play. That is a factor we have to consider when we analyse them.
"I do believe if you look at the two teams' backlines, both sides will look to entertain on Saturday."
15. Andries Coetzee, 14. Ruan Combrinck, 13. Lionel Mapoe (captain), 12. Stokkies Hanekom, 11. Courtnall Skosan, 10. Jaco van der Walt, 9. Ricky Schroeder, 8. Willie Britz, 7. Kwagga Smith, 6. Jaco Kriel/Warwick Tecklenburg, 5. Franco Mostert, 4. MB Lusaseni, 3. Ruan Dreyer, 2. Armand van der Merwe, 1. Schalk van der Merwe
Substitutes: 16. Malcolm Marx, 17. Jacques van Rooyen, 18. Martin Muller, 19. Warwick Tecklenburg/Steph de Wit, 20. Michael Bondesio, 21. Mark Richards, 22. Howard Mnisi
15. Cheslin Kolbe, 14. Kobus van Wyk, 13. Juan de Jongh (captain), 12. Jaco Taute, 11. Pat Howard, 10. Kurt Coleman, 9. Louis Schreuder, 8. Nizaam Carr, 7. Michael Rhodes, 6. Siya Kolisi, 5. Ruan Botha, 4. Jean Kleyn, 3. Pat Cilliers, 2. Stephan Coetzee, 1. Alistair Vermaak
Substitutes: 16. Scarra Ntubeni, 17. Brok Harris, 18. Manuel Carizza, 19. Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 20. Godlen Masimla, 21. Demetri Catrakilis, 22. Justin Geduld