Johan Ackermann’s men are coming off bonus-point wins against the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels, but the Brumbies will by far be their biggest test on tour.
Stephen Larkham’s side play very differently to the Force and Rebels, with much of their focus centred on defence and keeping things tight up front. But that doesn’t mean they don’t like challenging teams with their backs when the opportunity is there.
Ackermann knows his players are in for something completely different come Friday.
“On paper, they’re definitely our biggest threat on tour,” said Ackermann yesterday.
“The first two sides we were up against on tour had a lot to prove, they wanted to show they must stay a part of Super Rugby, but that isn’t the case with the Brumbies.
“They’re one of the biggest teams in Australia, with a lot of Wallabies, and, while they look to smother teams up front and like to take the ball through 20-plus phases, they also have excellent backs, men like Tevita Kuridrani and Henry Speight.
“They’ll test us physically, that’s for sure. I like to think of them as a Bulls-like team, big and strong, and always looking to disrupt their opponents’ rhythm.”
But, besides the different style the Lions will have to adjust to, the visitors are also fully aware they will be playing in very different conditions to what they have become accustomed to on tour.
Ackermann pointed out that his players have enjoyed the warmer climes of Perth, Melbourne and Sydney, and will have to adapt very quickly to the colder weather in Canberra on matchday.
“With it being such a late kick-off, close to 8pm, it’s expected that it’s going to be very cold and slippery, with a lot of dew.
“We’re just going to have to adjust as best we can, as is the case with the one less day to prepare this week, with the match being on a Friday.”
Because of the anticipated physical battle awaiting his men, Ackermann has opted to start with a fresh front row, including Johannes Jonker, Corne Fourie and Robbie Coetzee at hooker. Andries Ferreira is back in the starting team alongside Franco Mostert and so, too, is Ruan Ackermann after playing off the bench against the Rebels.
Tighthead specialist Ruan Dreyer, who had to withdraw from the squad on the eve of last weekend’s match because of a tight calf, is fit and will play off the bench.
The backline is unchanged and for the second week in a row there is no place in the matchday squad for Faf de Klerk.
The No 9 is said to be heading to Sale Sharks in England, but the Lions have not confirmed the move.
The Brumbies had a bye last weekend, but before then won three of nine matches. They are still Australia’s leading side and sit atop their conference with 18 points.
Lions STARTING XV: Andries Coetzee, Sylvian Mahuza, Lionel Mapoe, Harold Vorster, Courtnall Skosan, Elton Jantjies, Ross Cronjé, Warren Whiteley (capt), Ruan Ackermann, Kwagga Smith, Franco Mostert, Andries Ferreira, Johannes Jonker, Robbie Coetzee, Corné Fourie; Replacements: Malcolm Marx, Jacques van Rooyen, Ruan Dreyer, Lourens Erasmus, Robert Kruger/Cyle Brink, Dillon Smit, Jacques Nel, Anthony Volmink