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Lions v Highlanders Super Rugby Semi-Final Preview

Ben Smith in action for the Highlanders against the Lions

The second Super Rugby Semi-final on Saturday is in Johannesburg where the Lions host current champions the Highlanders.

The Lions finished second in the Super Rugby standings so they host the match. The Highlanders finished the regular season in fifth place but as the second placed New Zealand team.

By the time this match kicks off both teams will know the result of the first Semi-final and if the Chiefs beat the Hurricanes then both the Lions and the Highlanders will be playing for a home final.

The Chiefs finished the season in sixth place but if they can beat the Hurricanes then the winner of the second Semi-final will host the final as they both finished the season higher.

These two teams have met already this season and the Highlanders won the match 34-15 in Dunedin. Interestingly when that match took place the Lions had traveled to Japan and this was their second match in New Zealand.

The Highlanders have made an incredible amount of travel over the last month as they were in South Africa at the start of the month, they then flew to Argentina before returning home. After playing the Chiefs in Dunedin they flew to Australia and then on to Johannesburg.

Last week the Highlanders were a little flat but weather played a role in this as it was cold and wet in Canberra and this week clearer weather has been forecast. The conditions will suit the Lions more as they will have home advantage and Johannesburg is at altitude which always tires visiting teams in the final quarter.

The altitude should impact on the Highlanders a little less than other teams as they play their matches in an indoor stadium which is humid and the fresh air will aid them a little. This will also be the Highlanders first afternoon match of the year.

Although the Highlanders beat the Lions in March this year on the Highlanders last visit to Johannesburg they were leading 3-20 at half time only to lose 28-23.

Overall the Lions have played the Highlanders 17 times in Super Rugby since 1998 and they have won 6 matches and lost 11. This gives the Lions an overall record of winning 35% of their matches against the Highlanders regardless of the venue.

In Johannesburg the Lions have hosted the Highlanders 7 times and they have won five and lost two. This gives them a record of winning 71% of their home matches against the Highlanders.

The average score when the Lions host the Highlanders is : Lions 28 Highlanders 20.

The Lions will contest this match without captain Warren Whiteley who injured his calf playing against the Crusaders last week so Jaco Kriel takes over the captaincy.

The Lions have also lost replacement No.9 Ross Cronje so they will be hoping that Faf de Klerk is not injured early in the match.

Whiteley’s place in the starting line up is taken by Ruan Ackermann and is the only change to the side that started last week.

Highlanders head coach Jamie Joseph has retained his star backline but shuffled the forwards. Joseph has brought in loose forward James Lentjes, for Shane Christie and lock, Alex Ainley, replaces Luke Whitelock who moves to number eight.

To combat the altitude and travel fatigue Joseph has named a six forward, two back bench for this week, with hooker Greg Pleasants-Tate, prop Ross Geldenhuys and lock Joe Wheeler added to the squad. In the backs the versatile Marty Banks makes his return from injury to take his place on the bench.

The Lions loss of Whiteley is a big blow in such a crucial match. The Lions showed that they lack a little depth in Buenos Aires so if Faf de Klerk tires (he did play three Boks tests as well) or is injured the Highlanders will have an edge. They are also happy to rely on their defence.

Both teams finished the regular season on 52 points but the Highlanders achieved this in the New Zealand Conference which does not have the Cheetahs, Kings and the Sunwolves in it.

The Bookies have given the ~Highlanders a 2 point start for this Match – with an offer of up to $200 in Bonus bets. The Highlanders are accustomed to winning big play off matches. They were off the pace last week but won’t be off the pace for two weeks in a row. The Highlanders should edge this by one.

This Match will be shown on TV in NZ (Sky), Aus (Fox Sports), SA (SuperSport) and in the UK on Sky Sports 4.

Average score: Lions 24 Highlanders 27

Last five results
12 Mar 2016 Lions v Highlanders 15-34 Dunedin
09 May 2015 Lions v Highlanders 28-23 Johannesburg
10 May 2014 Lions v Highlanders 22-23 Dunedin
28 May 2011 Lions v Highlanders 26-22 Dunedin
26 Mar 2010 Lions v Highlanders 29-39 Dunedin

Lions overall record against the Highlanders
Played 17 , Wins 6, Losses 11 , Draws 0

Match No.141:Lions v Highlanders
Date : Saturday 30 July 2016
Venue : Ellis Park Johannesburg
Kick Off local: 15:00 local
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant Ref 1: Ben O’Keefe
Assistant Ref 2: AJ Jacobs
TMO : Shaun Veldsman

Teams

Lions

1 Dylon Smith , 2 Malcolm Marx , 3 Julian Redelinghuys , 4 Andries Ferreira , 5 Franco Mostert , 6 Jaco Kriel (c), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg , 8 Ruan Ackermann , 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. Lourens Erasmus,20. Steph de Witt ,21. Dillon Smit,22. Howard Mnisi ,23. Jaco Van Der Walt

Highlanders

1. Daniel Lienert-Brown , 2. Ash Dixon , 3. Josh Hohneck , 4. Alex Ainley , 5. Tom Franklin , 6. Elliot Dixon , 7. James Lentjes , 8. Luke Whitelock , 9. Aaron Smith , 10. Lima Sopoaga , 11. Patrick Osborne , 12. Malakai Fekitoa , 13. Matt Faddes , 14. Waisake Naholo , 15. Ben Smith ( C )

Replacements : 16. Greg Pleasants-Tate , 17. Aki Seiuli , 18. Ross Geldenhuys , 19. Joe Wheeler , 20. Liam Squire , 21. Dan Pryor , 22. Te Aihe Toma , 23. Marty Banks.