Defence will be the best form of attack when the Lions host the freestyling Jaguares at Ellis Park on Saturday, writes JON CARDINELLI.
The Lions have been South Africa's standout team in the 2016 Super Rugby tournament. That said, tactical inconsistencies have led to them losing several matches in embarrassing fashion.
In the round-10 clash with the Hurricanes, the Lions' reckless attack was duly punished. The Hurricanes bossed the collisions and forced the Lions to make mistakes. The New Zealand side then translated those errors into points at the other end of the park.
The Lions hit back in the round-12 fixture against the Blues. Johan Ackermann's charges scored seven tries in the 43-5 victory, but what really impressed was the improvement in the other areas of their game.
The Lions must persist with a more balanced approach when they host the Jaguares. They must be patient as well as aggressive. Ultimately, their determined defence could prove a source of tries and points.
According to SARugbymag.co.za's Opta-powered stats, the Lions have forced the most turnovers per match (nine) in 2016. This bodes badly for a Jaguares attack that is already leaking 18.2 turnovers per game (the second-worst record in the tournament).
Overall, the Jaguares have failed to impress in their debut Super Rugby season. The stats confirm that they have been among the worst teams in the tournament for set-piece success, defence and discipline. They will need to be sharper in these departments if they hope to compete with the Lions this weekend.
What will give the Jaguares some encouragement is their record against South African teams. Their only two wins this season have come against South African opposition (the Cheetahs and Kings). In the other three fixtures, the Jaguares have lost by five or fewer points.
The Lions are the favourites to win this match. And yet they cannot afford to take the Jaguares lightly, or allow the Argentinian side to start the contest well.
The Lions' approach should be shaped by their desire to secure an important victory. Their most recent win against the Blues propelled them to the top of the South African group log. They must maintain that position and increase their chances of securing a home playoff.
A win against the Jaguares will see them retain top spot. A defeat will provide the Stormers with a chance to reclaim this position through a win over the Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday evening.
STATS AND FACTS
– The Jaguares’ only away win so far in Super Rugby came in round one when they visited South Africa to play the Cheetahs.
– Each of the Lions’ last 14 matches have seen the full-time result mirror the half-time result (won eight, drawn one, lost five).
– The Lions have won only one of their last four games against teams from outside South Africa, though that win came in their most recent such fixture in round 12.
– Elton Jantjies has kicked 44 goals so far, the most of any player, and is one of only five players (all of whom are South Africa-based) to have kicked a goal from beyond the halfway line.
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Lions||Elton Jantjies (119)||Lionel Mapoe (7)||Ruan Combrinck (623)||Franco Mostert (85)|
|Jaguares||Nicolás Sánchez (72)||Martín Landajo (6)||Emiliano Boffelli (354)||Pablo Matera (64)|
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 Cyle Brink, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Lourens Erasmus, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Corné Fourie.
Subs: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Jacques van Rooyen, 19 Ruan Ackermann, 20 Warwick Tecklenburg, 21 Ross Cronjé, 22 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 23 Sylvian Mahuza.
Jaguares – 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Emiliano Boffelli, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Juan Martín Hernández, 11 Lucas González Amorosino, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo (c), 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Tomás Lezana, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Matías Alemanno, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Julián Montoya, 1 Santiago García Botta.
Subs: 16 Facundo Bosch, 17 Facundo Gigena, 18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Javier Ortega Desio, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Santiago González Iglesias, 23 Ramiro Moyano.
Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa), Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
TMO: Willie Vos (South Africa)
Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/ BackpagePix