Marnitz Boshoff will be back pulling the strings for the Lions against the Rebels on Friday evening, writes BRENTON CHELIN.
While Boshoff managed just 10 minutes in the Boks' dismantling of Scotland last weekend, he has been a mainstay in this less-fancied Lions team this season. From the very first match against the Cheetahs that was decided by a swoosh of his boot, Boshoff has grown considerably to become a well-rounded flyhalf.
His boot has helped keep the Lions pack moving forward, while his accuracy off the kicking tee has turned that dominance into points. He is the tournament's fourth highest point-scorer with 170, including 22 in the Lions' impressive 32-21 victory over the Bulls in their last outing.
Their opponents enter this one on the back of a hiding at the hands of the Reds, and arrive in South Africa still seeking their first win on foreign soil. They came close the last time these two met at Ellis Park, the only meeting between these teams. On that occasion it was the boot of Elton Jantjies which gave the hosts a 37-32 victory courtesy of a late conversion and penalty.
The Lions will welcome back experienced lock Franco van der Merwe for this one in the only change among the forwards. Meanwhile, the backline has two changes from their last outing against the Bulls, with Anthony Volmink getting a start on the left wing and Deon van Rensburg given the nod on the right.
Rebels coach Tony McGahan has made four changes to the side who surrendered meekly to the Reds last weekend. Hugh Pyle (lock) returns to the starting line-up, while Shota Horie (hooker) and Scott Fuglistaller (flank) will also get a chance to impress from the outset.
In a surprise call among the backs, Jason Woodward has dropped to the bench with Tom Kingston coming in on the wing. Young fullback Jack Debreczeni and flyhalf Bryce Hegarty are likely to share the place-kicking duties.
The two teams are separated by just one point heading into this one, so there shouldn't be too much between them. A win for either will all but guarantee that they won't finish bottom of the combined log, so you can expect both the teams to go all-out for the win here.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Lions 1, Rebels 0
In Johannesburg: Lions 1, Rebels 0
BOSHOFF'S STATS THAT MATTER
8 – The number of drop goals he has kicked (Rank 1)
38 – The number of penaly goals he has kicked (Rank 2)
170 – The number of points he has scored (Rank 4)
Source: Vodacom Rugby Stats App
Lions – 15 Coenie van Wyk, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Stokkies Hanekom, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Warren Whiteley, 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.
Subs: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Jacques van Rooyen/Corné 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 Burgess, 8 Scott Higginbotham (c), 7 Scott Fuglistaller, 6 Colby Fainga'a, 5 Luke Jones, 4 Hugh Pyle, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 Shota Horie,1 Toby Smith.
Subs: 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.
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images