The Lions will be out for revenge when they take on the Jaguares in what is expected to be a thrilling encounter in Johannesburg on Friday.
Despite being one of the tournament’s top sides over the past two seasons, the home side have been on the losing side in both their previous matches against the Jaguares although both those encounters were played in Buenos Aires.
The Lions will be brimming with confidence as they head into this clash after claiming a 29-16 victory over the Stormers in Cape Town last weekend.
That triumph was a morale-boosting one for head coach Johan Ackermann and his troops as it was a statement of intent from them against the team who have emerged as their biggest rivals in South Africa and it also handed the Stormers their first defeat of the season.
Both these sides employ expansive game-plans, so don’t be surprised if this is a free-flowing affair. Unsurprisingly both teams are amongst the frontrunners in the competition’s statistics for metres gained with the Lions in fifth position (3438) and the Jaguares in sixth place (3392).
The Lions are also third for defenders beaten (167) while the Jaguares are fourth (163).
The Jaguares have several exciting players in their ranks although an area of concern is their discipline, or lack thereof. The men from Buenos Aires have already amassed nine yellow cards this season which is more than one per match.
The Lions have won their last nine home games, scoring at least 34 points in each of those matches. The Jaguares have won just two of their 12 away games in Super Rugby – losing 10 – although both victories were registered in South Africa.
Raúl Pérez’s charges have recorded the lowest scrum (74%) and lineout (79%) success so far this season. Lions pivot Elton Jantjies has scored 73 points in his six games this season and his average of 12.2 points per game is the highest of any player.
The last time the teams met: The Jaguares beat an under-strength Lions side 36-24 in Buenos Aires in Round 3 after leading 21-7 at half-time. Both sides scored four tries apiece with Joaquín Tuculet, Ramiro Moyano, Jerónimo de la Fuente and Nicolás Sánchez dotting down for the Jaguares. Lions skipper Warren Whiteley scored a brace for the Lions and Jacques van Rooyen and Malcolm Marx also crossed the whitewash for the visitors.
Players to watch: Although the Lions have plenty of attacking threats across the park, openside flanker Jaco Kriel is a player who should have a huge influence on this clash. Kriel has impressed at the breakdown but also shone in attack and possesses a superb turn of speed and he should test the Jaguares defence once he builds up a head of steam.
If the Jaguares want to end the Lions’ winning streak in Johannesburg much will depend on the performance of experienced fly-half Nicolás Sánchez. The Argentine international’s game-management will be crucial and he will also be expected to unleash his dangerous outside backs with his impressive playmaking skills.
Team news: Lions head coach Johan Ackermann has made four changes to his run-on side. In the back-line, there is one enforced changed with Harold Vorster starting at inside centre in place of Rohan Janse van Rensburg, who was forced off the field with a knee injury in last weekend’s win over the Stormers in Cape Town. The other changes are all in the front row where Johannes Jonker, Armand van der Merwe, and Corne Fourie start with Ruan Dreyer, Malcolm Marx and Jacques van Rooyen providing cover. Meanwhile, full-back Andries Coetzee will make his 50th Super Rugby appearance.
Meanwhile, Jaguares head coach Raúl Pérez has made six changes to his starting line-up. In the forwards, there are two changes with Tomas Lezana and Benjamín Macome replacing Pablo Matera and Leonardo Senatore at blindside flank and number eight respectively. As for the backs, there will be a new halfback pairing as scrum-half Felipe Ezcurra and fly-half Nicolás Sánchez take over from Gonzalo Bertranou and Santiago González Iglesias. Meanwhile, there are two alterations to the back three. Ramiro Moyano takes over from Joaquín Tuculet at full-back while Bautista Ezcurra comes in on the left wing for Emiliano Boffelli. Amongst the replacements, Ignacio Larrague comes in to the matchday squad as lock cover while Joaquín Díaz Bonilla is one of the back-line reserves.
Form: The Lions started their campaign with victories over the Cheetahs and Waratahs before they suffered that defeat against the Jaguares in Round 3. Since then, they have beaten the Reds, Kings, Sharks and Stormers.
Apart from that win against the Lions, the Jaguares beat the Kings in their opener before losing to the Stormers in Round 2. They also beat the Cheetahs and Reds in Buenos Aires before losing to the Sharks in Durban and the Bulls in Pretoria.
Prediction: The home side are on a high and will take revenge for their loss in the corresponding fixture in Buenos Aires. Lions to win by 15 points.
2017: Jaguares won 36-24 in Buenos Aires
2016: Jaguares won 34-22 in Buenos Aires
2016: Lions won 52-24 in Johannesburg
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Moster, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Johannes Jonker, 2 Armand van der Merwe, 1 Corne Fourie
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Jacques Nel, 23 Sylvian Mahuza
Jaguares: 15 Ramiro Moyano, 14 Santiago Cordero, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 11 Bautista Ezcurra, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Felipe Ezcurra, 8 Benjamín Macome, 7 Rodrigo Baez, 6 Tomás Lezana, 5 Marcos Kremer, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy (c), 1 Lucas Noguera Paz
Replacements: 16 Roberto Tejerizo, 17 Santiago García Botta, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Ignacio Larrague, 20 Pablo Matera, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Joaquín Díaz Bonilla, 23 Emiliano Boffelli
Date: Friday, April 21
Venue: Emirates Airlines Park, Johannesburg
Kick-off: 19.00 local (17.00 GMT)
Referee: Rohan Hoffmann (Australia)
Assistant Referees: Damon Murphy (Australia), James Leckie (Australia)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)