Lions

Lions v Highlanders preview

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Ellis Park, Johannesburg, 19.10 (17.10 GMT)


Both teams’ coaches have talked up their chances this week, despite neither being entirely convincing in the opening round last week.


The Lions felt they were much better valuer that the 25-16 defeat against the Waratahs suggested.


In fact coach Eugene Eloff described it as “so near, yet so far”.


Eloff, known for his ability to get the best out of young players, said that his team had discovered that they can beat big teams in the Super 14.


“In hindsight, the Waratahs didn’t win the match – we lost it.,” Eloff said.


That is admirable, but he also knows that his team will have to lift their game against the side known for its ability to scrap with and beat the best.


“We are expecting a tough onslaught from the Highlanders on Saturday. We won’t take too much from the match they played against the Western Force, as there was a very big difference there.


“The Highlanders are a very physical team with great ability. Once they get a hold of you, they hold on. We are just focusing on ourselves to get a win under the belt and get momentum going.”


Despite producing a performance of ordinary standards, the Highlanders edged the Western Force (8-7) in Perth.


The other noteworthy aspect of this game is that both teams will be without key playmakers.


The Lions will play for the second consecutive week without Springbok fly-half Andr’ Pretorius, who has not recovered fully from his hamstring injury.


That means Louis Strydom will be playing in at fly-half for the second week. Last week he had an ordinary ay at the office, which prompted Eloff to say that he played under instructions.


The Highlanders have also lost their star play-maker – fly-half Nick Evans, who returned to New Zealand without playing any rugby on tour.


Wing Viliame Waqaseduadua is also returning to New Zealand after sustaining a medial ligament strain to his right knee, which will sideline him for four to six weeks.


This is a game that could launch a successful season for one of the teams, or simply sink them further into a mire of mediocrity.


Prediction: We believe the Lions do have a bit more class and allround depth. They will have to work hard for it, but they should win. The Lions by about 10 points.


Teams:


Lions: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Wylie Human, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Doppies la Grange, 11 Jaco Pretorius, 10 Louis Strydom, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Willem Alberts, 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 Ettienne Reynecke, 17 Bertus Smit, 18 Gordon Gilfillan, 19 Franco van der Merwe, 20 Enrico Januarie, 21 Jaco van Schalkwyk, 22 Earl Rose


Highlanders: 15 Craig Clare, 14 Lucky Mulipola, 13 Matthew Saunders, 12 Jason Kawau, 11 Greg Zampach, 10 Callum Bruce, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Craig Newby, 7 Josh Blackie (c), 6 Hoani MacDonald, 5 James Ryan, 4 Filipo Levi, 3 Clarke Dermody, 2 Jason Macdonald, 1 Chris King
Replacements: 16 David Hall, 17 Keith Cameron, 18 Ezra Taylor, 19 Alando Soakai, 20 Toby Morland, 21 Charlie Hore, 22 Willie Rickards


Referee: Paul Marks (Australia)
Touch judges: Brett Bowden (Australia), Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Television match official: Johann Meuwesen (South Africa)

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