Super Rugby Match Preview
Saturday 17th March 2018
Lions vs Sunwolves
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Kickoff: 17h15 Local Time, 15h15 GMT, 17h15 SA Time
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa)
Assistant Referees: Egon Seconds (South Africa), Stephan Geldenhuys (South Africa)
TMO: Willie Vos (South Africa)
The Lions, somewhat surprisingly, lost to the Blues last weekend. The surprise loss came after an absolutely dominant 50 minutes of Lions’ rugby, and then 30 minutes of weirdly hapless stuff from a side most expect to be challenging for a playoff slot again this year.
Despite the loss to the Blues, the Lions are still top of the SA Conference, and have looked the better side in each game they have played, including the somewhat odd loss to the Blues. It was as if they had gone to sleep on the field.
They will be committed to fixing whatever it was that went wrong last week, and what better way to fix those missing gears and slipping cogs than against the Sunwolves.
There is not much positive to say about the visitors. They remain the cannon fodder of the competition, and the Lions will be looking to bank a bonus point against them.
The Lions have named Rohan Janse van Rensburg on the wing, which provides some interesting options for the future. We know he can tackle in the midfield, and we know that he is a tackle-buster with the ball in hand. If he makes the change in position successfully, he may just solve some of the problems that the Springboks have had out wide in the last couple of years.
Janse van Rensburg takes Sylvian Mahuza’s shirt at 14 with Harold Vorster starting at inside centre in an otherwise unchanged backline.
Len Massyn replaces the injured Warren Whiteley at eight and is joined in the back row by new captain Franco Mostert, and Kwagga Smith.
Lourens Erasmus comes in at lock alongside Marvin Orie while Jacobie Adriaanse and Dylan Smith start in the front row..
The Sunwolves have stayed true to their practices and rotated their starting line-up yet again. Three changes are found in the backline as William Tupou switches to outside centre, Hosea Saumaki takes over on the left wing while Yutaka Nagare is preferred at scrum-half, and takes over as captain.
Up front Koo Ji-won comes in at tighthead while Wimpie van der Walt replaces Grant Hattingh at lock and Lappies Labuschagne is on the openside, with Michael Leitch moving from the blindside to number eight for the Ellis Park clash.
The Lions will need to address a couple of very real issues. First and foremost, their defence has been rickety at times. They have conceded a total of 100 points in their last three matches, all against lesser opponents.
They also have to focus on being clinical and committed right until the very end of the game. When the Blues started their fightback in the last quarter of last week’s encounter, it seemed as if the Lions were riding on their lead and were taking it easy. They cannot afford to make that mistake again.
On paper, there is simply no comparison between the two teams. The Lions seem to have it all, while the Sunwolves are simply there to make up the numbers.
There is not much more that anyone can say or do to hype this game as something worth making special arrangement to watch.
Without a shadow of doubt, the Lions by 35.
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Len Massyn, 7 Francois Mostert (c), 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Lourens Erasmus, 3 Jacobus Adriaanse, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylan Smith
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Robert Kruger, 20 Marnus Schoeman, 21 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Shaun Reynolds
Sunwolves: 15 Kotaro Matsushima, 14 Lomano Lemeki, 13 William Tupou, 12 Michael Little, 11 Hosea Saumaki, 10 Harumichi Tatekawa, 9 Yutaka Nagare, 8 Michael Leitch (c), 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 5 Wimpie van der Walt, 4 Kazuki Himeno, 3 Jiwon Koo, 2 Yusuke Niwai, 1 Craig Millar
Replacements: 16 Atsushi Sakate, 17 Shintaro Ishihara, 18 Hencus van Wyk, 19 Grant Hattingh, 20 Willie Britz, 21 Keisuke Uchida, 22 Ryoto Nakamura, 23 Ryuji Noguchi