Planet Rugby

Preview: Lions v Reds

21st March 2014 07:51

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Surprise package: Jaco Kriel

Having already achieved success against opponents who are supposed to punch in a superior weight class, the Lions should enter their clash against the Reds reassured in their ability to win at altitude.

While their gains on the field - like Marnitz Boshoff's outstanding success rate at goal - can be measured, the IT geeks have yet to invent an app that indicates of what value cohesion and trust brings to a Super Rugby outfit.

To that effect Lions coach Johan Ackermann has made but a solitary change to his run-on team with the seasoned Willie Wepener taking over at hooker from the injured Robbie Coetzee.

The confidence in Boshoff's boot also reached the point where his adjutant, Elton Jantjies, has been sent to the lower leagues to ensure he remains match ready in case the Johannesburg side's points machine breaks down.

In turn, the Reds started their tour of South Africa on a sombre note when Chris Feauai-Sautia and Ben Daly suffered long term injuries during their loss to the Sharks.

Still, when compared on paper, the Queensland outfit reeks of class and experience - to the extent that Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie could have a nervous breakdown if a team with as many Test veterans loses to one that now has only one international in their ranks.

Flashy as Boshoff's boot may have been, the unsung hero's in the Lions setup has been their pack of forwards who have not taken a step back when matched against either all-Springbok or all-All Black frontrows.

In Ackermann they arguable have one of the best forwards coaches out there, but what has really impressed is the mobility some of the bigger men have shown.

Not only have they been accurate at set-phase, the team's all attacking mindset requires greater skill from their forwards and to that effect their ability to speed up second and third-phase play has caught many an opponent off guard.

The hope in Johannesburg this weekend would be that the continuity the Lions have shown in team selection is replicated in their drive to achieve success against all odds - and in staying true to the theme of their season, safe money would be to back their opponents to for the win.

The Reds have played in fits and starts and will therefore be eager to put in a rounded performance that compliments the flair they have in their world beating halfback-pairing.

For many of the Queensland players, this last week on tour would have brought back memories of recent Rugby Championship tours to Gauteng.

They were based at Monte Casino in Fourways - where many should start feeling like locals - and as is the case when they pull a gold jersey over their heads, most players in this team understand that a calculated win against a supposedly inferior opponent would go a long way cementing a platform for another finals appearance.

As always, the Reds' opponents should enter the match with a "neutralise Genia" mindset - although keeping young Faf de Klerk under wraps could of equal value to a side looking to bank some points on tour.

Prediction: A coin-toss when considering the camaraderie in the Lions camp. Reds should, however, win by six with class prevailing over determination.

Lions: 15 Coenie van Wyk, 14 JW Jonker, 13 Deon van Rensburg, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Willie Britz, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Franco Mostert, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Mark Pretorius, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 MB Lusaseni, 20 Stephan de Wit, 21. Ross Cronjé, 22 Lionel Mapoe, 23 Ruan Combrinck

Reds: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Lachie Turner, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 James Horwill (c), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Saia Fainga'a, 1 James Slipper
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Jono Owen, 19 Ed O'Donoghue, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Anthony Fainga'a/Ben Lucas 23 Dom Shipperley

Date: Saturday, March 22
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Kick-off: 17:05 (15.05 GMT)
Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen, Francois de Bruin (both SA)

By Michael Mentz

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