CAPE TOWN – The Lions would be most people’s favourites for their Super Rugby semi-final against the Waratahs.
But beating the Highlanders last week has given the Tahs some gravitas, and they will look to cause an upset at Ellis Park today (3.05pm kickoff).
IOL Sport editor Ashfak Mohamed looks at where the game may be decided…
1 The breakdown battle
No Michael Hooper means the Waratahs won’t have the same menacing breakdown presence without their captain. But Kwagga Smith is not really a fetcher either – no worries, Lions: enter the hulk Malcolm Marx!
2 Elton Jantjies v Bernard Foley
Elton Jantjies has been the SA Super Rugby king of flyhalves over a number of years, but now he will come up against another master dictator in Bernard Foley.
I watched Foley clinch the Super Rugby title for the Tahs live at the Sydney Olympic Stadium in 2014 with a late penalty against the Crusaders, so the Wallaby No 10 has seen it all.
3 Lions need to keep Folau and Beale quiet
How do you stop these two thrilling footballers? The worry for me is that the Lions sometimes slip one-on-one tackles, especially out wide with Ruan Combrinck. If ever the Lions No 14 wants to prove he should be in the Springbok mix, this is the game to do it – as he will have to mark giant Tahs wing Taqele Naiyaravoro as well.
4 Lions props mustn’t concede scrum penalties
Ruan Dreyer has done well in Super Rugby down the years, but we’ve seen his tendency to concede penalties in the scrums for the Springboks when the heat is on.
Tighthead Dreyer (4 Test caps) and loosehead Jacques van Rooyen (uncapped) will have a hard time against Wallabies Tom Robertson (20 Tests) and Sekope Kepu (94).
5 Can Taqele Naiyaravoro handle altitude?
The giant Wallaby wing has scored 15 tries this season, equal with the Crusaders’ George Bridge and one behind Ben Lam of the Hurricanes.
But Naiyaravoro – who was born in Fiji and is 1.95m and 123kg – didn’t make much impact when the Lions beat the Waratahs 29-0 in Sydney in April.
Now the big man has to deal with the altitude at Ellis Park as well. A few chips in behind by Elton Jantjies would be in order…