CRAIG LEWIS looks ahead to the final three Vodacom Super Rugby matches in round nine, which involve the Lions, Sharks and Vodacom Bulls.
BRUMBIES vs LIONS, Canberra (Saturday 11:45am)
Immediately after the Lions suffered a humbling 42-5 defeat against the Sharks last weekend, coach Swys de Bruin suggested it would be a good thing for the team to be heading on tour.
De Bruin hopes it will be an opportunity for a new-look Lions group to grow closer together, and focus on remedying what was an utterly listless performance against the Sharks.
In no uncertain terms, the Lions have reached a crossroad in their campaign, and it’s this three-week tour in Australasia that is likely to make or break their playoff ambitions.
As it is, the Johannesburg-based side is now precariously placed in seventh place on the overall standings, and will need to display an enduring fighting spirit as they get set to face the Brumbies, Chiefs and Crusaders in the coming weeks.
Saturday’s match is one that they should still have real hope of winning, with the Brumbies coming into this clash on the back of heavy defeats to the Reds and Crusaders.
De Bruin has made a number of changes to the Lions team, and it is good to see Ruan Combrinck and Aphiwe Dyantyi back on the wings, while Hacjivah Dayimani gets the nod at No 8.
This is a must-win match for the Lions ahead of a challenging two-week tour to New Zealand, while the nature of the visitors’ performance will say a lot about the character of South Africa’s perennial pacesetters.
Stats and facts
o The Lions have won their last two games on the bounce against the Brumbies in Super Rugby. They had never previously won back-to-back games against the Canberra-based side.
o Despite leading at half-time in six of their last eight Super Rugby games, the Brumbies have managed to accrue only three wins in that time.
o The Lions succumbed to a 27-22 loss to the Reds in their last Super Rugby game in Australia, snapping a six-game winning run in the country.
o The Lions are one of only three teams (Rebels, Waratahs) to boast a lineout success rate (92%) and scrum success rate (94%) above 90%.
o Lions hooker Malcolm Marx has won 11 turnovers this season, with eight of those coming from jackals. No other player has won as many jackal turnovers.
Brumbies – TBC
Lions –15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Franco Naude, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Stephan Lewies, 6 Cyle Brink, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Rhyno Herbst, 3 Johannes Jonker, 2 Malcolm Marx (c), 1 Nathan McBeth.
Subs: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Carlü Sadie, 19 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20 Marnus Schoeman, 21 Ross Cronjé, 22 Gianni Lombard, 23 Sylvian Mahuza.
SHARKS vs JAGUARES, Durban (Saturday 3:05pm)
The Sharks flicked a switch and produced one of the most complete performances from any side so far this season as they battered the Lions into submission at Ellis Park last weekend.
Yet the big question now revolves around whether the Durban-based side can replicate such an effort against a scrappy Jaguares outfit.
The Sharks physically dominated the Lions, providing the opportunity for backs such as Lukhanyo Am, Makazole Mapimpi and Curwin Bosch to play with freedom.
It’s the sort of recipe they will want to reproduce against the Jaguares, a side that they have beaten in five out of the last six meetings between the teams.
The team from Argentina boasts a lowly scrum success of 80%, and it’s at this key set piece that the Sharks will undoubtedly look to target the visitors, despite resting Beast Mtawarira and Coenie Oosthuizen for this encounter.
Last weekend, the Jaguares played their get-of-jail-free card to burgle a late win over the Bulls, but they will head into Saturday’s encounter at Kings Park as undeniable underdogs.
Stats and facts
o This will be the seventh Super Rugby meeting between the Sharks and Jaguares, with the Durban-based side picking up five wins from their previous six encounters.
o The Sharks are undefeated in their last 13 Super Rugby games at home against teams visiting from outside South Africa (won 11, drawn two).
o The Jaguares have won five of their last 10 away games in Super Rugby, including a 22-20 win over the Bulls in round eight. However, four of those five wins came after trailing at half-time.
o The Sharks have conceded just six clean breaks per game this Super Rugby campaign, the fewest of any team in the competition.
o Pablo Matera (Jaguares) and Daniel du Preez (Sharks) have each made 11 offloads this Super Rugby campaign, more than any other forwards in the competition.
Sharks – 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Lwazi Mvovo, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Rob du Preez, 9 Louis, Schreuder (c), 8 Dan du Preez, 7 Philip van der Walt, 6 Luke Stringer, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Subs: 16 Fez Mbatha, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 JJ van der Mescht, 20 Jean-Luc du Preez, 21 Grant Williams, 22 Kobus van Wyk, 23 Aphelele Fassi.
Jaguares – TBC
BULLS vs REDS, Pretoria (Saturday 5:15pm)
The Bulls will still be smarting after throwing away a healthy lead late in the game against the Jaguares last weekend, but Saturday’s clash against the Reds presents the ideal opportunity to bounce back.
As it is, the Bulls have been bolstered by the return of Springboks Warrick Gelant, Jesse Kriel, Handré Pollard and RG Snyman, which has added a far more settled look to the Pretoria-based side.
The Reds are a side that have been frustratingly inconsistent again this season, but they have travelled to South Africa on the back of a good win over the Stormers.
The Australian team have not lacked ambition this season, but they have failed to complement that with the necessary execution, and the season averages show that they have been guilty of conceding 14.7 turnovers per game.
Reds coach Brad Thorn has brought in two new front rowers for this clash, but the Bulls should be confident of achieving ascendancy at scrum time, with Trevor Nyakane and Lizo Gqoboka in good form.
Playing at home, the Bulls should be expected to build scoreboard pressure, and ultimately secure a comfortable victory.
Stats and facts
o Each of the last 12 Super Rugby games between the Bulls and Reds have been won by the home team on the day.
o The Bulls have won only one of their last five Super Rugby games at home against teams visiting from outside South Africa, despite leading at half-time on four occasions in that period.
o The Reds are on the hunt for back-to-back Super Rugby wins outside Australia for the first time since 2013 after securing a 34-31 win over the Sunwolves in round five.
o The Reds have beaten 29 defenders per game in Super Rugby 2019, the most of any team in the competition.
Bulls – 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Johnny Kotze, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jade Stighling, 10 Handré Pollard (c), 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Paul Schoeman, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jannes Kirsten, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Subs: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Wiehan Herbst, 19 Thembelani Bholi, 20 Roelof Smit, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Divan Rossouw.
Reds – 15 Hamish Stewart, 14 Jack Hardy, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Samu Kerevi (c), 11 Aidan Toua, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Liam Wright, 6 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 5 Harry Hockings, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Alex Mafi, 1 JP Smith.
Subs: 16 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 17 Harry Hoopert, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Angus Blyth, 20 Angus Scott-Young, 21 Moses Sorovi, 22 Duncan Paia’aua, 23 Jock Campbell.
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