Preview: Chiefs v Lions

Date published: March 4 2016

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The Chiefs will look to make it two from two when they host the Lions at the FMG Stadium on Saturday.

The two-time champions will be confident after last week's 21-27 away win against the Crusaders. What's more important to note is that the Lions have not beaten the Chiefs since 2008.

The home side, having won fourteen of their last eighteen encounters against South African opposition, will be firm favourites going into this one. 

Having ranked in the top three players for the amount of offloads, Aaron Cruden and Charles Ngatai will be hoping to maintain this fine attacking form.

Cruden's return is certainly a welcome sight for all of those who expect him to take the All Blacks number ten jersey later this year against Wales and beyond.

Full-back Damian McKenzie stole the show however last week despite some scratchy goalkicking, however he gained 89 metres for his side – the most by any Chiefs player during week one. 

Meanwhile the Lions arrive in Hamilton fresh from taking on the Sunwolves in Tokyo, completing a testing early travel schedule for Johan Ackermann and his side. The Lions have now won their last four Super Rugby matches outside of South Africa.

Fly-half Elton Jantjies was off target against the Sunwolves only managing to convert 50 percent of his kicks at goal, and will have to rediscover his accuracy.

Captain Warren Whiteley and Jaco Kriel will also be looking to continue their strong defensive form, whilst both back-rows are vital for the Lions to get them over the gain-line. 

Those two players will lead the charge in what feels like a significant game for the Lions, who are on the cusp of being billed as the best side in South Africa. What they need to confirm that are key wins in big games such as this one on Saturday. 

The last time these two teams met: These teams did not meet in 2015. Back in 2014, a much-needed success for the Chiefs put them back on top of the New Zealand Conference after defeating the Lions 38-8. The home side outscored a young, inexperienced Lions side six tries to one, with Tim Nanai-Williams particularly dangerous, scoring one and creating another. 

Players to watch: We saw flashes last week, and last season in fact, of the explosiveness Seta Tamanivalu has to offer the Chiefs in midfield, but now it's time for the breakthrough. The Chiefs will look to their 104kg centre to get them in behind the defence.

Although his kicking accuracy was not ideal against the Crusaders, the Lions will want to restrict Damien McKenzie from getting an opportunity to launch a counter-attack. The elusive full-back made five line breaks during the last week's victory over the Crusaders.

Team NewsThe Lions have made three changes. There are as many on the bench. Harold Vorster will partner Lionel Mapoe in midfield with Howard Mnisi moving to the bench. Malcolm Marx and Dylan Smith start in the front row.  Akker van der Merwe drops to the bench is Corné Fourie while Fabian Booysen will make his Super Rugby debut should he get a run. 

Dave Rennie has made only two changes to the starting XV which defeated the Crusaders. Maama Vaipulu will start at eighth-man and Tom Sanders moves to blindside flanker. Latu Vaeno gets his first start on the right wing, with Shaun Stevenson forced to sit out the game due to a minor shoulder complaint. Japanese captain Michael Leitch is brought in on the bench and is expected to make his return to Super Rugby, while former Warrior Glen Fisiiahi looks set to earn his first Super Rugby cap.

Form: Last week's 13-26 victory for the Lions over the Sunwolves was a morale booster after loses to the Bulls and Jaguares in pre-season warm-up matches. This was the fourth consecutive win for the Lions outside South Africa. The Chiefs also went into last week's clash with a pre-season loss, suffering a 24-12 defeat to the Blues. The victory in the first round over the Crusaders will certainly have boosted their confidence going into round two.

Prediction: Having won the last five encounters between both sides and given the amount of time the Lions have spent travelling over the last two weeks, we're backing the hosts. Chiefs by nine.

Previous results:

2014: Chiefs won 38-8  in Hamilton
2012: Chiefs won 34-21 in Pukekohe    
2011: Chiefs won 34-30 in Johannesburg
2010: Chiefs won 72-65 in Johannesburg
2009: Chiefs won 36-29 in Hamilton
2008: Lions  won 27-33 in Johannesburg
2007: Chiefs won 34-7  in Hamilton
2006: Chiefs won 16-21 in Johannesburg    

The teams:

Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Latu Vaeno, 13 Seta Tamanivalu, 12 Charlie Ngatai, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (c), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Maama Vaipulu, 7 Sam Cane (c), 6 Tom Sanders, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Michael Allardice, 3 Hiroshi Yamashita, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 Pauliasi Manu
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Mitchell Graham, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Taleni Seu, 20 Michael Leitch, 21 Brad Weber, 22 Anton Lienert-Brown, 23 Glen Fisiiahi

Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnal Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylan Smith.
Replacements: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Robert Kruger, 20 Fabian Booysen, 21 Jaco van der Walt, 22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Rohan Janse van Rensburg

Date: Saturday, March 5
Venue: FMG Stadium, Waikato
Kick-off: 17:15 local (04:15 GMT)
Referee: Andrew Lees
Assistant Referees: Nick Briant, Angus Mabey
TMO: Aaron Paterson

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