Super 14 Rugby

Lions can do SA teams a favour



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With every remaining match in the Super 14 crucial as the sides jockey for a semifinal berth, the Lions can do their South African counterparts, the Stormers and the Sharks, a huge favour by beating the Brumbies in Canberra on Friday.

The Sharks and the Stormers are respectively second and fourth on the log and realise that there are still nine sides vying for the four spots.

Defeat for the eight-placed Brumbies will make their position even more tenuous – especially with their remaining three matches against the Stormers, Bulls and Force away from home.

It will also virtually take another threat for the Sharks and Stormers out of the equation. Lions coach Eugene Eloff has been forced to make more changes to his team because of injury.

Jaco Pretorius has returned home with a groin injury, and Eloff has opted to give inside centre Doppies le Grange a break.

Walter Venter and Jannie Boshoff are the new centre pairing, and Earl Rose comes in at fullback with Louis Ludik replacing Dusty Noble on the wing. The Lions forwards have done their share.

They were on top against the Waratahs last weekend and tried to the very end. They also stood their ground against the Crusaders the previous weekend. In both these matches the Lions were impressive in the first half only to surrender after the break.

“It is scary to think how many scoring opportunities we have missed so far in this Super 14. And most of those were the difference between winning and losing,” Eloff wrote in his column after the Waratahs match.

While happy with his forwards, Eloff feels the backs have not been capitalising because they have not been direct enough in their approach.

With captain Stirling Mortlock back for the Brumbies, they’ll be a more confident side than the one that initially struggled against the Sharks before turning it around after the break.

For them, the chance of a semifinal will be a big motivator while the Lions have to overcome their fear of another defeat and be more positive.

The Brumbies should win, but the Lions can win. They have shown over and over they do have the talent. It is a question of putting it together.

* In Friday’s other match, it’s the old foes from Christchurch and Auckland, the Crusaders and the Blues, who do battle in the former’s stronghold.

Log-leaders Crusaders realise they have to bounce back from last week’s defeat against the Chiefs or risk going into a downward spiral.

They have fullback Leon MacDonald back, and also centre Casey Laulala which should make a difference to their penetration. But that they are missing injured flyhalf Dan Carter, is beyond doubt.

They have played with less authority since his injury, and the Blues – a good but inconsistent side – could capitalise on Carter’s absence.

The visitors have made a number of changes to their backline with a view to be more explosive.


Centre Isaia Toeava and scrumhalf Danny Lee move to the bench.

Wing Anthony Tuitavake will start at 13, with David Smith taking his place on the right wing. Lee is replaced by Taniela Moa. A derby is always hard to predict.

However, the Blues who had a bye last weekend, come off four losses in their last six matches and are probably short on confidence – and that is one thing sorely needed if you think of beating Crusaders.

Friday’s matches (SA times, home teams first):

Crusaders v Blues, 9.35am;
Brumbies v Lions, 11.40am.

Sapa –   

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