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    Lions coach has faith in 'B' team

    2016-07-14 06:56

    Cape Town - Agustin Creevy and his Argentine Jaguares find themselves in a position to influence the Super Rugby outcome when they play an underpowered Lions this weekend, despite a disappointing debut season.

    The pace-setting Lions have left 15 star players at home to freshen up before the playoffs, but if the gamble does not pay off, they risk losing the valuable right to a home final if they make it that far.

    Travelling during the playoffs has proven to be notoriously difficult in the 20-year history of the Southern Hemisphere championship, where the final is hosted by the team finishing highest in the regular season.

    The visiting side has only won five times, and only once, when the Crusaders beat the Brumbies in Canberra in 2000, did the winner travel overseas to claim the trophy.

    The Lions go into the final round on 52 points, closely followed by the Chiefs (51), Crusaders (50), Highlanders (48) and Hurricanes (48).

    By the time the South Africans and the Jaguares take the field in Buenos Aires late on Saturday for the closing match of the regular season, the four New Zealand contenders will have sorted out who most needs the South Americans to win.

    Lions coach Johan Ackermann knows the risk he is taking in gambling on his virtual "B" team keeping them at the top of the ladder, but believes the risk is worth it.

    "We have a lot of faith in the players that we send to Argentina. They have been part of our extended squad for the whole year and must be ready to play in a playoff game should we need them and we regard this as vital preparation," he said.

    The Jaguares, a shadow Argentine national side, are not happy with only three wins so far and want to close their first year of Super rugby with a victory.

    Only five starting Lions and three replacements remain from the side that beat the Jaguares 52-24 two months ago in Johannesburg.

    Jaguares centre Matias Orlando described emotions as running high in their camp with the prospect of toppling the leading side.

    "We want to close this first season well and because we cannot forget what happened in Johannesburg (we) want revenge," he said.

    Before the Jaguares and Lions take the field, the Crusaders play the Hurricanes and the Highlanders take on the Chiefs.

    In such a packed points table, the winners of the two New Zealand derbies are in line to overtake the Lions and will then have a nervous wait to see what transpires in Argentina.

    On overall points, the New Zealand sides go into the final round filling second to fifth positions, but only the conference winner will get a home play-off berth.

    The Stormers, as winners of the Africa 1 conference, and the yet-to-be-determined top Australian team also get home berths in a bid to keep interest alive as long as possible in all three countries.

    The Stormers, who did not have to play any New Zealand sides, finish off their regular season against the hapless Southern Kings.

    The Brumbies are best placed to take the Australian conference with their final game at home against Western Force.

    The Waratahs, equal with the Brumbies on 39 points, have a more difficult assignment, travelling to Auckland to play the Blues who easily demolished the Brumbies last week.

    The Sharks, at home to the lowly Sunwolves, have a grip on the South African wildcard entry into the playoffs with their nearest rivals, the Bulls, away to the Cheetahs.

    Teams:

    Jaguares

    TBA

    Lions

    15 Sylvian Mahuza, 14 Koch Marx, 13 Stokkies Hanekom, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Ross Cronjé (captain), 8 Cyle Brink, 7 Robert Kruger, 6 Stef de Witt, 5 Lourens Erasmus, 4 Martin Muller, 3 Jacques van Rooyen, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Corné Fourie

    Substitutes (two to be omitted): 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Clinton Theron, 18 Pieter Scholtz, 19 Fabian Booysen, 20 Ruaan Lerm, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Jacques Nel, 23 Shaun Reynolds, 24 Bobby de Wee, 25 Ashlon Davids

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    Fixtures

    Saturday, 17 February 2018
    • Stormers v Jaguares, Cape Town 15:05
    • Lions v Sharks, Emirates Airlines Park 17:15
    Friday, 23 February 2018
    • Highlanders v Blues, 08:35
    • Rebels v Reds, AAMI Park 10:45
    Saturday, 24 February 2018
    • Sunwolves v Brumbies, Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium 06:15
    • Crusaders v Chiefs, 08:35
    • Waratahs v Stormers, Allianz Stadium 10:45
    • Lions v Jaguares, Emirates Airlines Park 15:05
    • Bulls v Hurricanes, Loftus Versfeld 17:15

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