JOHANNESBURG – The Lions may not be in their best form but they have a golden opportunity to knock over the Chiefs and get back to winning ways when the teams meet in a Super Rugby match in Hamilton tomorrow.
Here we point out why we feel Swys de Bruin’s men should believe they can win this round 10 match:
The Chiefs are missing their big guns
The Lions will hardly have a better opportunity than now to pull off a win on the road.
The Chiefs are far from being at their strongest with the injury bug having knocked down as many of their players as those in the Lions team.
All Blacks stars like lock Brodie Retallick, hooker Nathan Harris and of course utility back Damian McKenzie, are all out of the clash due to injury. What it means is the heart of the Chiefs team has been ripped out and several rookies will have to stand up against the Lions, who will have fond memories of their last trip to the Waikato region of New Zealand.
History in Hamilton
March 5, 2016, round two of that year’s competition: The start of what would be a fairy tale three seasons for the Lions.
On that day, a week after they’d started their season with a first ever meeting and win against the Sunwolves in Tokyo, they beat the mighty, All-Blacks-laden Chiefs 36-32 on home soil.
It gave them the belief anything and everything was possible, and they’d go on to play in the final that year, and in 2017 and last year. That result will be etched in the minds of many of the players running out on Friday - and it may just give the Lions the little extra edge they need.
A boost for Lions
Two of the Lions’ biggest guns - Elton Jantjies and Malcolm Marx - will play off the bench, which will be of some relief to the Chiefs, but on the flipside they’ll know they’re going to have to face those two men later on when the game opens up.
Before then though the visitors will hope that fit-again loose-forwards Warren Whiteley and Kwagga Smith and the inclusion of dynamic young No 10 Gianni Lombard sparks the team into action.
Also, the return to the starting team of Carlu Sadie at tighthead prop and Ross Cronje at scrumhalf gives the Lions stability in key departments.
The Chiefs have been poor
The once dangerous and unpredictable Chiefs have had a run even worse than that of the Lions, having won only three matches in eight outings.
And while those wins have all come in their last three clashes, they remain a side that appears to be there for the taking. While they feature favourably in most of the statistics for attack and defence, they’ve been inconsistent and slipped too many tackles to be a force.
With a points differential of -41 (second worst only to the Sunwolves’ -70) they’re a team that concedes a lot of points. And it’s going to be up to the Lions to make them pay.@jacq_west