The Lions could take a stranglehold on the Africa 2 conference standings by securing a bonus-point win over the Kings in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Last weekend was another favourable one for the Johannesburg-based side. Not only did the Lions outplay the Stormers to cut the deficit between them and the overall South African conference leaders to just two points, but they were also done a favour by the Blues.
With the Sharks only managing to bag a losing bonus point in Auckland last Saturday, the Lions were then able to move five points clear at the top of the Africa 2 conference after their win over the Stormers.
That advantage could well be extended to as much as 10 points by the end of this weekend, with the high-flying Lions set to face the struggling Kings, while the Sharks will come up against the champion Highlanders in Dunedin.
The Lions will certainly keep a close eye on the Sharks-Highlanders battle first up on Friday before then looking to do the business against the Kings in Port Elizabeth. It’s a match-up that will surely have only one winner.
As illustrated by SARugbymag.co.za’s Opta-powered stats, the attack-minded Lions are ranked in the top five of all teams when it comes to metres made, carries and defenders beaten (rank one). By contrast, the Kings are at the bottom of the pile in all those statistical areas, while they’ve conceded 36 tries with only an 80% tackle success rate.
So if the Lions are able to ensure that they remain switched on for this encounter, it could well get messy in Port Elizabeth. The Lions have shown few signs of slowing down this season, and they should have very little trouble in powering their way to a fifth win of their campaign.
Although the Lions have suffered some unfortunate injuries and will head into this weekend's clash with an all-new front row in a starting lineup that shows six changes from last weekend, they should prove to be far too strong for the Kings.
As it is, the injury-hit Kings have made a whopping nine changes to their starting lineup, with the forward pack and back three having been reshuffled.
HEAD TO HEAD
This is the teams' first meeting.
STATS AND FACTS
– The Kings will face the Lions for the first time in Super Rugby and will be aiming for their first-ever win against South African opposition in the competition.
– The Kings have lost five of their last six at home, with their only positive in that run being a 33-28 win against the Sunwolves in round six.
– The Lions have won four and drawn one of their last six matches away from home, with the full-time result mirroring the half-time result on all six occasions.
– The Kings have scored all but one of their tries from possession originating from either a lineout (six) or after winning a turnover (five).
– Elton Jantjies has kicked 34 successful goals so far this season, the most of any player, with an accuracy of 77%.
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Kings||Louis Fouché (57)||Edgar Marutlulle (3)||Shane Gates (232)||CJ Velleman (65)|
|Lions||Elton Jantjies (99)||Lionel Mapoe (3)||Ruan Combrinck (413)||Warren Whiteley (62)|
Lions – 15 Jaco van der Walt, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Cyle Brink, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Armand van der Merwe, 1 Corné Fourie. Subs: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Jacques van Rooyen, 19 Ruan Ackermann, 20 Jaco Kriel, 21 Ross Cronjé, 22 JW Bell, 23 Rohan Janse van Rensburg.
Referee: Rasta Rashivhenge (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco van Heerden (South Africa), AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
TMO: Christie du Preez (South Africa)
Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images