Blues v Lions preview


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Eden Park, Auckland, 19.35 (06.35 GMT)

This is a battle between two of the form sides of the moment.

The Lions have been all heart, while the Blues are just about the only side playing an attractive brand of rugby at the moment, and it is the clash of those two attributes that will make this fixture so intriguing.

But the Lions have demonstrated that they do have the ability to play some good rugby as well – especially with their dynamic pack: a powerful and exciting front row, some energetic locks, Cobus Grobbelaar’s prowess on the deck and Ernst Joubert’s instinct for attacking space.

Add to this the sheer talent of the likes of Ricky Januarie, Andre Pretorius and Jaque Fourie in the backline and you begin to wonder why anybody wrote them off in the first place!

But make no mistake, the Blues, under the watch of masterful coach David Nucifora, are a class act.

Inspirationally led by the resurgent Troy Flavell in the midst of a hardened pack, with some pacy outside backs to boot, it will take quite an effort to stop the Auckland side.

Notably, however, the Blues have left two form players out of their starting side – the two playmakers, in fly-half Isa Nacewa and midfielder Luke McAlister, and along with the injury of Anthony Tuitavake, the backs take on a little less of a venomous look.

The key to this match will be the traditional line – who has the steel up front, and who takes the most of their opportunities.

Andre Pretorius could be one of the players of this year’s tournament and he could be pivotal on Saturday.

The interesting tussle is in the second row. Cobus Grobler and Anton van Zyl have been stirring, but Flavell and Greg Rawlinson are up there with the best in the business.

Prediction: The Lions are flying high, and Saturday’s challenge will only lift their game. The Lions to win by ten points or less.


Blues: 15 Ben Atiga, 14 Doug Howlett, 13 Isaia Toeava, 12 Sam Tuitupou, 11 Rudi Wulf, 10 David Holwell, 9 David Gibson, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Daniel Braid, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Troy Flavell, 4 Greg Rawlinson, 3 John Afoa, 2 Derren Witcombe, 1 Saimone Taumoepeau
Replacements: 16 Chris Heard, 17 Nick White, 18 Anthony Boric, 19 Angus MacDonald, 20 Steve Devine, 21 Isa Nacewa, 22 Luke McAlister

Lions: 15 Earl Rose, 14 Louis Ludik, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Doppies La Grange, 11 Jaco Pretorius, 10 Andr’ Pretorius, 9 Enrico Januarie, 8 Jacques Cronj’, 7 Ernst Joubert (c), 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Anton van Zyl, 4 Cobus Grobler, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Heinke van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Bertus Smit, 18 Franco van der Merwe, 19 Willem Alberts, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Strydom, 22 Jaco van Schalkwyk

Referee: Paul Marks (Australia)
Touch judges: Brett Bowden (Australia), Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Television match official: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
Assessor: Alan Riley (New Zealand), Arrie Schoonwinkel (South Africa)

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