JOHANNESBURG – The Lions will be looking to make full use of their lineout weapon in this Saturday's Super Rugby semi-final against the Waratahs in Johannesburg.
While the Lions are generally celebrated in rugby circles for their fearless ball-in-hand approach, their set-piece and mauling strengths often remain unheralded hallmarks of their game. This season's statistics show that the Lions boast a competition-high lineout success rate of 90.9%, with 43 of their 81 tries this year coming off the back of this attacking set piece.
In addition, Springbok forward Franco Mostert has reigned supreme in this facet of play, with the Lions' workhorse ranked first in the competition for lineouts won (71). This valuable set piece has been strengthened by the recent return to fitness of star hooker Malcolm Marx, who has made significant improvements in terms of his lineout throwing, while the Lions' have increasingly turned to their lineout drive as a try-scoring source.
As it is, this season's statistics also show that the Lions are the leading team in terms of tries scored from first-phase play (38). There is no doubt that the Waratahs will be wary of this weapon of the Lions, although lock Jed Holloway has moved to insist that the visitors won't be changing their approach.
"They (the Lions) have a quality pack, but we consider our pack quite fast and mobile. They have their strengths, but we have ours in different ways," Holloway said. "I don't think we'll be avoiding lineouts. Even though they're the top in the numbers, we've got the second-best defensive lineout in the competition, which is something we've been working really hard at and we're very proud of as well."
While Holloway might be talking a good game in that regard, there is no doubt that the Waratahs will be fully aware that they need to nullify the impact of Marx this Saturday if they are to have any hope of causing an upset. Marx walked away with the Man of the Match award in last Saturday's quarter-final, with the dynamic hooker winning a number of crucial turnover penalties.
African News Agency (ANA)