The Lions need Lionel Mapoe to produce another strong attacking performance against the Waratahs in Sydney on Sunday, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
The outside centre was a constant threat in Dunedin last week, making 72m with ball in hand – the most by any Lions player – from 11 carries. He also broke the line twice and scored his side's second try.
While the Lions pack is one of the best in the competition (with a scrum success rate of 93%), their backline has struggled to crack defences and create try-scoring opportunities. The Joburg-based franchise has relied heavily on Marnitz Boshoff's boot, which let them down against the Highlanders, and crossed the line just 16 times in 11 matches.
In Mapoe, they have someone who can spark something with ball in hand and he will need to do so if the Lions are to win in Sydney for the first time in nine attempts (including when they were part of the Cats franchise). But with the dangerous Adam Ashley-Cooper opposite him, Mapoe will also have to defend better than he did last week when he made two tackles, but missed two.
The Lions have reshuffled their back three for this match, with JW Jonker on the left wing, Deon van Rensburg on the right and Courtnall Skosan at fullback. The Waratahs have made just one change as Will Skelton starts at No 4 lock.
The stats show what the Lions can expect from the Tahs on Sunday. The Sydney side has averaged more offloads (13.1) and passes (162) per game than any other side this year, and has produced fewer kicks from hand per game than any other side (17.2).
The Tahs have won their last five Super Rugby matches against the Lions, including a 29-12 win in Sydney in 2011.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Waratahs 14, Lions 2
In Sydney: Waratahs 9, Lions 0
* Includes Cats
MAPOE'S STATS THAT MATTER
72 – The number of metres he made with ball in hand against the Highlanders last week
2 – The number of clean breaks he made in that match
1 – The number of tries he scored
Source: Vodacom Stats App
Waratahs – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Matt Carraro, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Rob Horne, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis (c), 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Will Skelton, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson.
Subs: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Jeremy Tilse, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Jacques Potgieter, 20 Stephen Hoiles, 21 Brendon McKibbin, 22 Alofa Alofa, 23 Taqele Naiyaravoro.
Lions – 15 Courtnall Skosan, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 JW Jonker, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Martin Muller, 4 MB Lusaseni, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Subs: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Rudi Mathee, 20 Warwick Tecklenburg, 21 Ross Cronjé, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Chrysander Botha.
Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix