Kwagga Smith has been named on thebench for the Lions vs the Auckland Blues on Saturday. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – The men from Auckland may be nought from two and regarded as New Zealand’s weakest Super Rugby outfit, but they have the full respect of the Lions, who are three from three so far. The teams clash in a round four match at Ellis Park tomorrow afternoon.

“We’ve had a conversation around the Blues and believe they are the toughest opposition so far,” said Lions backs coach Neil de Bruin yesterday.

“I’m taking nothing away from the other teams we’ve played against up to now (the Sharks, Jaguars and Bulls), but the Blues are a team that have lost two matches, and their players will be hungry. It’s our biggest challenge... and our players are up for it. I can assure you there will be no complacency.”

De Bruin, who is in his first season with the senior team after achieving plenty of success with the Lions’ junior sides, added that the Blues' attacking style will test his men like no other team has done this year.

“They’ve got a different player profile and while they lost their first two games they played very well,” said De Bruin. “It’s important if you’re going to go far in Super Rugby to play against different teams, with different styles, so for us this is a big opportunity.”

The Lions are unchanged from the win against the Bulls last weekend, meaning regular lock Franco Mostert will again pack down on the blindside flank, giving his pack an extra line-out option and added weight. The only changes are on the bench where Kwagga Smith returns from compassionate leave, Hacjivah Dayimani is back after a slight niggle and flyhalf Ashlon Davids gets a chance.

“It’s lovely to be able to pick the same team,” said De Bruin. “There’s no reason to change it anyway. The guys did well last week so we want to continue the momentum and continuity, and how awesome isn’t it to be able to bring on Kwagga and Hacjivah from the bench to make an impact.”

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De Bruin said the Lions would probably adopt a different game-plan to that which got them past the Bulls a week ago. At Loftus, the Lions played a more forward-dominated game, with their set-pieces and mauls helping them win.

“Last week was an excellent forwards performance that set the platform for everything else, but this is a new week, against a new opponent ... our first New Zealand team,” said De Bruin. “Hopefully our forwards can dominate again... and then we’ll see, the rest will come through from that.

“Obviously, we’ve prepared accordingly, where we can create opportunities against them and benefit, but we’re not going to change much from last week. The key will be to not give them ball, and not to make mistakes ... so it’s about being clinical. They’re likely to have a very positive mindset which is good because we, too, like to play a bit of rugby.”

The Lions starting XV: 

Andries Coetzee, Sylvian Mahuza, Lionel Mapoe, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Elton Jantjies, Ross Cronje, Warren Whiteley, Franco Mostert, Cyle Brink, Marvin orie, Andries Ferreira, Ruan Dreyer, Malcolm Marx, Jacques van Rooyen; 

Replacements: Robbie Coetzee, Dylan Smith, Jacobie Adriaanse, Lourens Erasmus, Kwagga Smith, Hacjivah Dayimani, Ashlon Davids, Harold Vorster.

The Star

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