The first of two Super Rugby quarter finals in South Africa on Saturday is in Johannesburg where the Lions host the Crusaders.
The Lions finished the regular Super Rugby season in second place which is why they are hosting the match and the Crusaders finished in 7th place overall and fourth.
Even though the Lions finished five places above the Crusaders the Lions only finished the season with two points more than the Crusaders.
When one bears in mind that the Lions had the Jaguares and the Southern Kings in the same Conference and the Crusaders were in the strongest conference its easy to see why this match is probably the closest of all four quarter finals.
The Lions have already played the Crusaders at this venue before this season and the match was won 37-43 by the Crusaders. The Lions had the benefit of local referee Stuart Berry in that match and the Crusaders made it known were not happy with his performance after they left.
This weekend the referee will again be a local referee as Craig Joubert will be in charge with an entire panel of South African officials. The Crusaders should know what to expect from this as the conditions are very similar. There is one big difference though and that is that the Crusaders had already played a match in South Africa before they played the Lions so they were over the travel whereas this week they could still be recovering from the travel.
The Lions have played the Crusaders 17 times since 1998 and they have won 3 matches and lost 14. This gives the Lions a record of winning 18% of their matches against the Crusaders.
The teams have met 8 times in Johannesburg and the Lions have won twice. This gives the Lions a record of winning 25% of their home matches. The average score when the Lions play the Crusaders in Johannesburg is Lions 26 Crusaders 30.
The Lions have been given a boost for this week as captain Warren Whiteley is back in the starting team.Whiteley was originally bracketed in the starting line up with Ruan Ackermann but has since been cleared to lead the Lions on Saturday.
The Lions rested their first choice players against the Jaguares last week but in the match prior to that against the Kings they fielded their first choice players and the only change to that side is the return of Whiteley who was injured playing against Ireland for the Springboks so could not play.
The replacements bench is also the same that was used against the Southern Kings with the exception of Ruan Ackermann and Jaco Van Der Walt who has been bracketed with Sylvian Mahuza.
The Crusaders were beaten last week and have made five changes. Arguably the biggest is Jone Macilai taking the wing in place of the injured Nemani Nadolo,
Halfback Andy Ellis and lock Sam Whitelock were late withdrawals from the team last week, but both have been declared fit to play against the Lions (Ellis recovering from a calf strain and Whitelock from a virus).
Whitelock will partner Luke Romano at lock, and Scott Barrett will provide cover from the bench. Jordan Taufua comes back into the starting line-up at 6, and Jimmy Tupou shifts to the bench.
The Bookies have given the Crusaders a 2 point start for this Match – with an offer of up to $200 in Bonus bets. This match should be the closest of the Quarter finals. We expect the Lions to start and finish stronger than the Crusaders who will be strongest in the second and third quarters. The Crusaders can be expected to drop off due to the altitude in the final quarter but they should be able to hang on for the win. Crusaders to edge this by 2.
This Match will be shown on TV in NZ (Sky), Aus (Fox Sports), SA (SuperSport) and in the UK on Sky Sports 3 on the Red Button.
Average score: Lions 25 Crusaders 36
Last five results
01 Apr 2016 Lions v Crusaders 37-43 Johannesburg
14 Mar 2015 Lions v Crusaders 6-34 Christchurch
05 Apr 2014 Lions v Crusaders 7-28 Johannesburg
31 Mar 2012 Lions v Crusaders 13-23 Johannesburg
20 Mar 2010 6 Lions v Crusaders 19-46 Christchurch
Lions overall record against the Crusaders
Played 17, Wins 3, Losses 14, Draws 0
Match No.138:Lions v Crusaders
Date : Saturday 23 July 2016
Venue : Emirates Airlines Park, Johannesburg
Kick Off local: 16:30 local
Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistant Ref 1: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant Ref 2:Rasta Rasivhenge
TMO : Marius Jonker
1 Dylon Smith , 2 Malcolm Marx , 3 Julian Redelinghuys , 4 Andries Ferreira , 5 Franco Mostert , 6 Jaco Kriel , 7 Warwick Tecklenburg , 8 Warren Whiteley (c) , 9 Faf De Klerk , 10 Elton Jantjies , 11 Courtnal Skosan , 12 Rohan Janse Van Rensburg , 13 Lionel Mapoe , 14 Ruan Combrinck , 15 Andries Coetzee
Replacements: 16 Armand Van Der Merwe , 17 Corne Fourie , 18 Jacques Van Rooyen , 19 Ruan Ackermann , 20 Cyle Brink , 21 Ross Cronje , 22 Howard Mnisi , 23 Jaco Van Der Walt/Sylvian Mahuza
1. Wyatt Crockett ,2. Codie Taylor , 3. Owen Franks , 4. Luke Romano , 5. Sam Whitelock , 6. Jordan Taufua 7. Matt Todd , 8. Kieran Read (C) , 9. Andy Ellis , 10. Richie Mo’unga , 11. Jone Macilai , 12. David Havili , 13. Ryan Crotty , 14. Johnny McNicholl , 15. Israel Dagg
Replacements : 16. Ben Funnell , 17. Alex Hodgman, 18. Mike Alaalatoa, 19. Scott Barrett, 20. Jimmy Tupou , 21. Mitchell Drummond, 22. Ben Volavola, 23. Kieron Fonotia