Preview: Reds v Lions

Date published: March 26 2015

The Reds will be eager to turn what has been a disastrous start to the Super Rugby season around when they host a very confident Lions side in Brisbane on Friday.

With only 39 points scored in their first five-outings – the least of any team in the competition – it has indeed been one of the worst starts for the Queensland-based side and another loss will further dent their chances of making the play-offs.

In contrast, the Lions turned their early season disappointment around by banking two wins on a tour which has already been labelled a success.

Should they manage another victory before returning home the traditional underdogs could find themselves in a position where, with a few solid performances in Johannesburg, they could challenge a few of the tournament's big guns for a place in the knock-out stages.

They will, however, have to contend with a rejuvenated Reds outfit that has been bolstered by the return of no less than six key players.

Reds coach Richard Graham is confident that his returning men would solve the try-scoring problems they have experienced.

"Just the attack is more fluent with him there and obviously not just with Quade (Cooper) coming back but also the combination with Will (Genia) again will be pivotal to the way that we play," said Graham.

For Lions coach Johann Ackermann who took note of the internationals that were included in the opposition’s line-up, it was more a case of getting off to a solid start – something his men have failed to do in recent weeks.

"I'm really proud of the character the players have shown these last few weeks, but it's also a bit frustrating.

"I asked them after the Rebels game just how good things will be if we play decent rugby from the get go and reduce errors. That's our biggest challenge."

The last time these team met: The Reds were literally blown away by a Lions side that had a point to prove and although they enjoyed a 14-point lead in that showdown, it was not enough to keep the Lions out. Two, somewhat controversial, yellow cards against the Reds also turned the game on its head, although credit has to go to the Lions for their gutsy performance that saw them clinch a 23-20 win.

Players to watch:The Lions have indicated that they would target Wallaby playmaker Quade Cooper’s channel and to that effect Cooper’s performance is often dictated by what his halfback partner Will Genia get’s up to. The pair’s skills are well documented although a solid performance by the recently married James Horwill is also a must as the foundation for victory is usually set up front.

The Lions, as always, will look to skipper Warren Whiteley to lead from the front, but do keep an eye out for full-back Andries Coetzee who was rewarded with a start this week. He has explosive pace.

Team news: Six of the big guns have returned for the Reds. Cooper will start at 10 Greg Holmes returns via the bench. James O’Connor will start on the wing while there are also returns for Lachlan Turner, Samu Kerevi and Ben Daley.

In the Lions camp a few rotational changes were made with Elton Jantjies starting ahead of Marnitz Boshoff at fly-half. He wil be joined by Ross Cronje who takes over at scrum-half. In the forwards, Robbie Coetzee was given the starting berth this week

Form: Left pointless in their last match and struggling to get over the try-line the Reds have yet to hit any sort of form this season. The Lions have just beaten the Rebels and should, in theory, be considered the form side for this encounter.

Prediction: In a situation where it is almost all-or-nothing for the Brisbane-based side, the Lions could be in for a backlash of some sorts. This is a very desperate Reds outfit and their opponents might already be thinking of returning home. A victory by six points for the Reds should be a safe bet.

Previous results:

2014: Lions won 23-20 in Johannesburg
2012: Reds 34-20 in Brisbane
2011: Reds won 30-25 in Johannesburg
2010: Reds won 41-26 in Johannesburg
2009: Lions won 31-20 in Brisbane

The teams:

Reds: 15 Lachie Turner, 14 Chris Kuridrani, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Anthiny Fainga'a, 11 James O'Connor, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Curtis Browning, 6 Adam Thompson, 5 Dave McDuling, 4 James Horwill, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 James Hanson, 1 James Slipper (captain)
Replacements:16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Greg Holmes, 19 Marco Kotze, 20 Michael Gunn, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Ben Tapuai, 23 Chris Feauai-Sautia

Lions:15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Sampie Mastriet, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Robert Kruger, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Schalk van der Merwe
Replacements:16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Julian Redelinghuys, 19 Martin Muller, 20 Jaco Kriel, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Marnitz Boshoff, 23 Howard Mnisi

Date: Friday, March 27
Venue: Lang Park, Brisbane
Kick-off: 19:00 local (, 09:00 GMT, 20:00 AEDT, 22:00 NZDT, 11:00 SAST)
Referee:Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees:Matt O’Brien, James Leckie (both Australia)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)