JOHANNESBURG - Lions coach Johan Ackermann has picked the same team for the third week in a row, just this time the stakes are so much higher than in the last fortnight.
Ackermann’s team which includes 10 Springboks in the run-on side has to get past the defending champions, the Hurricanes, in the Super Rugby semi-finals at Ellis Park on Saturday if they are to have a stab at winning the title.
The match is a repeat of last year’s final showdown, which took place in Wellington, New Zealand, and was won 20-3 by the Hurricanes.
There are a further two Springboks on the Lions’ bench and the matchday squad of 23 includes a further four players who turned out for the SA “A” team in June.
The Lions go into the match on the back of a narrow 23-21 victory over the Sharks. Last Saturday wing Ruan Combrinck had to slot a 55m penalty in the 78th minute for Ackermann’s men to triumph.
The popular Lions boss will hope his side can end a lean spell against the Hurricanes – the visitors also won the round-robin game at Ellis Park last year 50-17 – to progress to the final where one last big effort could see them become South Africa’s second franchise to lift the trophy.
The only other South African side to win Super Rugby are the Bulls, who’ve done it three times.
Ackermann will leave the Lions when they fall out of the competition – this week or next – to take up a position with Gloucester in England.
Lions team: Andries Coetzee, Ruan Combrinck, Lionel Mapoe, Harold Vorster, Courtnall Skosan, Elton Jantjies, Ross Cronje, Ruan Ackermann, Kwagga Smith, Jaco Kriel, Franco Mostert, Andries Ferreira, Ruan Dreyer, Malcolm Marx, Jacques van Rooyen. Replacements: Akker van der Merwe, Corne Fourie, Johannes Jonker, Lourens Erasmus, Cyle Brink, Faf de Klerk, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Sylvian Mahuza.