Planet Rugby

Preview: Lions v Melbourne Rebels

03rd July 2014 09:17

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Marnitz Boshoff Lions SR 2014

Marnitz Boshoff: Key man for the Lions

With two Springboks in their starting team, confidence in the Lions squad should be further boosted by the fact that they have never lost to the Melbourne Rebels.

The Lions head into their penultimate showdown of the season having claimed many big scalps in their backyard and should be fired-up to add another overseas opponent to a collection that includes the Reds and Blues.

Although their undefeated status against the Rebels only represent a single showdown between the sides, is undoubtedly a record Johan Ackermann's charges would like to extend as it also presents an opportunity to further highlight the outstanding form they have enjoyed at home.

The Lions are targeting a sixth triumph at Ellis Park this year in what has been a solid comeback season while the Rebels have only four wins to show with two testing highveld clashes - they face the Bulls in Pretoria next weekend - left for the season.

Tours of South Africa have been atrocious for the men from Melbourne who, the last time they visited, made the headlines for the turmoil inside their set-up and not what transpired on the field of play.

The last time they travelled to Africa they conceded 98 points in defeats to the Sharks and Cheetahs.

They were battling as their defensive structures at that time was reflective of a lack of trust that prevented any sort of continuity in the side.

The Rebels do, however, have a slight advantage this week as they have already been involved in a hit-out following the June international break.

But it remains to be seen whether that rust removal session against the Reds will compensate for the effects the long distance travel is likely to have on the side.

Failure to get out of the blocks flying could again put the Rebels in a situation where they spend most of their tour behind their own goal line, although there were some promising signs from their previous match which indicates that there has been tremendous growth.

In contrast, the Lions have a first-ever Super Rugby victory against the Bulls to show from their last outing, and although that happened more than a month ago, it might take another month for the effects of a splendid victory over their arch rivals subside.

In what is set-up to be a fitting end to a stellar career at the Lions, lock Franco van der Merwe was included in the run-on team ahead of Rudi Mathee while fellow veteran Deon van Rensburg received the nod at wing ahead of Cortnall Skoskan.

Ackermann said in the build-up to this contest that he would like nothing more for his men than to end the season on a positive note in order to leave a lasting memory of what they have accomplished in their first year back.

"If we don't do well in the last two games, the Super Rugby season will be remembered as not being too good. The opposite side of the coin is that if we win the games, we can look back on a good season with a few mistakes.

Form: The Lions were on fire prior to the June international break and will be desperate to retain the same intensity when they play in front of their home crowd. The Rebels played in fits and starts against the Reds last week and need a complete performance. Rugby history, with the Hurricanes winning 12 of those matches, the Chiefs 10, and one ending in a draw.

Previous result:

2012: Lions won 37-32 in Johannesburg

Prediction: The Lions will be playing for one of their most realiable stalwarts and have a fly-half who would like to further impress the national selectors. This could become rough for the Rebels. Lions to win it by nine points.

The teams:

Lions: 15 Coenie van Wyk, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Stokkies Hanekom, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley (capt), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Franco Mostert, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Jacques van Rooyen/Corne Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Willie Britz, 20 Derick Minnie, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Lionel Mapoe

Rebels: 15 Jack Debreczeni, 14 Tom Kingston, 13 Tamati Ellison, 12 Mitch Inman, 11. Tom English 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Luke Burges, 8 Scott Higginbotham (capt) 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Colby Fainga'a, 5 Luke Jones, 4 Hugh Pyle 3 Laurie Weeks 2 Shota Horie 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 Pat Leafa, 17 Cruze Ah-Nau, 18 Paul Alo-Emile, 19 Cadeyrn Neville, 20 Jordy Reid, 21 Nic Stirzaker, 22 Jason Woodward, 23 Telusa Veainu.

Date: Friday, July 4
Venue: Ellis Park
Kick-off: 19:10 local, 18:10 BST
Referee: Jaco Peyper (SA)
Assistant referees: Stuart Berry, Cobus Wessels (both SA)
TMO: Johan Greeff (SA)

By Michael Mentz

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