Lions, Blues set for exciting duel
Cape Town - There
should be plenty of thrilling action when the Lions host the Blues in
their Super Rugby hit out in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Both sides enjoy the ball in hand approach so don't be surprised if
this encounter is a high scoring affair with plenty of tries scored.
The sides' expansive playing styles have certainly paid off with the
Lions (27.6) and Blues (27.1) averaging the most defenders beaten of all
the sides in Super Rugby 2016.
Time wise, no side has enjoyed more possession than the Blues this season, with an average of 18mins 10sec per game.
The Lions enjoyed a bye last weekend, but are trying to get their
campaign back on track after they were on the wrong end of a 50-17drubbing at the same venue against the Hurricanes two weeks ago.
The home side will be buoyed by the fact that they have won their
last two matches against the Blues. Before those victories in Albany and
Johannesburg, Johan Ackermann's troops never won back-to-back games
against the men from Auckland, losing seven of the eight prior to that.
The Lions have lost their last two home matches with that defeat
against the Hurricanes preceded by a Round 6 loss to the Crusaders.
They have not lost more in a row on home soil since 2012 when they lost
five consecutive matches.
The Blues have got their campaign back on track in recent weeks,
after some mixed results earlier in the competition. They might be at
the bottom of the standings in the New Zealand Conference, but they
certainly haven't disgraced themselves, winning five of their nine
matches played so far.
The form of the teams from the land of the long white cloud has been
so impressive that the 25 points which the Blues have amassed from their
previous matches is just two less than the Lions, who are sitting at
the top of the Africa Conference Two table.
The last time these teams met: These sides faced
each other last year in Round 4 in Albany with the Lions condemning
the Blues to their fourth successive defeat after claiming a hard-fought
13-10 victory. The Blues led 10-3 at the interval thanks to a Jerome
Kaino try and a conversion and penalty from Ihaia West, with the Lions'
only points coming via a Elton Jantjies penalty. The Lions turned on the
style after half-time and secured victory thanks to a Ruan Combrinck
try, which Jantjies converted, and another penalty from the pivot.
Players to watch: Blues enforcer Jerome Kaino
has had a quiet year by his standards. The All Black started the
campaign as the team's skipper but has relinquished the captaincy after
returning to action from a shoulder injury. When on song, he's the best
blindside flanker in the business with his ball-carrying and defensive
abilities particularly impressive. If he builds up a head of steam, the
Lions' defence will have to be at their best to keep him in check.
Much of the Lions' fortunes depends on the performance of their flyhalf Elton Jantjies.
The Springbok's playmaking abilities have been impressive and if he can
get quality ball from his pack, the Lions should dominate. His
goal-kicking is also crucial and he should keep the scoreboard ticking
if the Blues concede penalties within his range.
Team news: Lions boss Johan Ackermann has made four
changes to his starting XV. In the forwards, tighthead prop Julian
Redelinghuys and hooker Malcom Marx return to the starting line-up and
replace Armand van der Merwe and Pieter Scholtz respectively. In the
back-line, Ross Cronjé gets the nod at scrumhalf with Faf de Klerk
dropping to the bench while Rohan Janse van Rensburg comes in to partner
Lionel Mapoe in midfield with Howard Mnisi moving to the bench.
The Blues have made two alterations to their side, after last
weekend's win over the Kings, with both changes made in the forwards. In
the second-row, Hoani Matenga takes over from the injured Josh Bekhuis
while All Blacks prop Charlie Faumuina replaces Ofa Tu’ungafasi in the
Form: The Lions are fresh off a bye but suffered a
humiliating 50-17 home defeat against the Hurricanes in Round 10. Prior
to that, they were on a three-match winning streak, against South
African opposition, beating the Sharks in Durban, the Stormers in
Johannesburg and the Kings in Port Elizabeth.
The Blues' last defeat came in Round Seven when they lost narrowly
against the Chiefs in Hamilton. Since then, they have beaten the Sharks
and Rebels in Auckland although they had a bye in between those fixtures
in Round 9. They continued with their fine form when they claimed a
34-18 victory over the Kings in Port Elizabeth last weekend.
2015: Lions won 13-10 in Albany
2014: Lions won 39-36 in Johannesburg
2012: Blues won 25-3 in Auckland
2011: Blues won 41-32 in Johannesburg
2010: Blues won 56-14 in Johannesburg
2009: Blues won 36-12 in Auckland
2008: Blues won 55-10 in Johannesburg
2007: Blues won 41-14 in Auckland
Jaco van der Walt, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Rohan Janse
van Rensburg, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8
Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco
Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1
Substitutes: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie,
18 Jacques van Rooyen, 19 Ruan Ackermann, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Faf de
Klerk, 22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Sylvian Mahuza
Lolagi Visinia, 14 Melani Nanai, 13 George Moala, 12 Piers Francis, 11
Tevita Li, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Tanerau
Latimer, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Hoani Matenga, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie
Faumuina, 2 James Parsons (captain), 1 Sam Prattley
16 Quentin MacDonald, 17 Nic Mayhew, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Kara Pryor,
20 Joe Edwards, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Matt McGahan, 23 Male Sau
Referee: Jaco van Heerden
Assistant Referees: Jaco Peyper, Pro Legoete
TMO: Shaun Veldsman