JOHANNESBURG – Former Springbok coach and rugby analyst Nick Mallett said on Monday that the Lions must seize on their opportunity when they play their Super Rugby semifinal against the Waratahs at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday.
The Lions beat the Jaguares and the Waratahs defeated the Highlanders to set up the game while the Crusaders will host the Hurricanes in Christchurch in the other semi-final. Mallett said on Supersport.co.za that the Lions were able to take advantage of the Brumbies win over the Waratahs in the last round of regular season play.
"If they [the Waratahs] had won that, it would have been the Lions having to travel. So lots of things have gone in the Lions' favour for the past two weeks, they must really seize the opportunity now," he said. The Sharks had found it difficult travelling to New Zealand while the Waratahs would find it tough playing at altitude, so all the signs pointed to a Crusaders-Lions final.
He added: "I think the Crusaders are one of the best direct teams in the competition. We all talk about this lateral play of the All Blacks, how they go from one side to the other. But this team is very direct. They play flat, on the advantage line, they step very well and their understanding of when to offload is so good.
"They won't throw a 50-50 pass, they try and hold on to the ball. Patience is such a key. They so often make short passes, not skip passes, just quick hands to the guy next door and really straight-running. It is just copybook rugby that you would team a senior team at school."
Meanwhile, Mallett said hooker Malcolm Marx's performance in the Lions' win over the Jaguares ensured that he is the best No 2 in the world. "We have had a great captain in John Smit as a hooker, we had Bismarck du Plessis, who was the best in the world in his time. Suddenly out of nowhere pops Marx, the best in the world in my opinion, at a very young age already," he said.
Marx's work in the tight-loose was "quite extraordinary". "He wasn't there during the June internationals, but he is going to be there for the Springboks during the Rugby Championship. He is an absolute menace around the ball, you cannot move him, he is completely legal and when he is on the ball, that ball is lost. Also, he has the vision to read the pass of the Jaguares' scrumhalf, intercept and run 40m to score a try. He was extraordinary," Mallett said.
African News Agency (ANA)