The Lions host the Cheetahs in Johannesburg on Saturday in one of two South African Super Rugby derbies.
The Lions have won eight of their 12 matches against the Cheetahs in Super Rugby since the 2007 season with an average score of 28-25. The Lions have won their last four matches against the Cheetahs and will be looking to stretch that winning run to five on Saturday.
The Lions have been the most effective team with ball in hand this season, and have allowed their opposition on average only 12 minutes and 15 seconds of possession. The Cheetahs, meanwhile, have been the least successful in the scrums, with a 76% success rate.
The Lions had a winning start to their Super Rugby campaign, beating the Sunwolves 26-13 in a historic match at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo, but the Cheetahs weren’t so lucky and were edged out 34-33 by the Jaguares in Bloemfontein.
The Lions carried their momentum into the second round and overcame the Chiefs 36-32 in Hamilton, securing their first ever win at the Waikato venue in Super Rugby history in the high-scoring thriller.
The Cheetahs were left winless after their meeting with the Stormers and bounced back in Round Three, putting up a fight to bag a 32-31 comeback win against the Sunwolves.
The hosts lost centre promising Harold Vorster, touted as a future bok, after their triumph over the Chiefs, and is set to miss the rest of the Super Rugby season.
Losse forward Fabian Booysen has also been ruled out with a facial fracture, while loose forward Derick Minnie is nursing a knee injury.
The Cheetahs have also been dealt heavy injury blows with Rayno Benjamin – (torn calf), Willie Britz (thumb injury), Danie Mienie (dislocated shoulder), Gerhard Olivier (ankle injury) and Maphutha Dolo (ankle) out of action through injury.
The last time these teams met: These team last met in Round 15 of last year’s competition when the Lions mauled the Cheetahs 40-17 in Bloemfontein. The men from Johannesburg ran in four tries to the hosts’ two in a dominant display against an error-prone Cheetahs outfit. The visitors scored four tries through Jaco Kriel, Lionel Mapoe, Courtnall Skosan and Faf de Klerk, and fly-half Elton Jantjies booted 20 points in the encounter, slotting four penalties in as many attempts and making no mistake with the conversions. Boom Prinsloo was the only try-scorer for the home side and crossed the whitewash twice, with Coenie van Wyk adding the extras.
For the Lions, Lionel Mapoe is back at centre in the backline, while Andries Coetzee starts at full-back. Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Jaco van der Walt move down to the bench and up front the son of Johan Ackermann gets his first start in the place of Warwick Tecklenburg, who will sit out a one-week ban, at number seven. Dylan Smith replaces Jacques Van Rooyen at loosehead, while Malcolm Marx starts at hooker in place of Robbie Coetzee.
Springbok lock Lood de Jager returns to the side after being rested in line with the ARU agreement on resting players last week, Smith has also added Charles Marais, Torsten van Jaarsveld, Maks van Dyk and Clayton Blommetjies to the starting line-up with Jacques du Toit, Ox Nche, Johan Coetzee on the bench. Francois Uys makes way for De Jager and drops to the bench after captaining the side last week.
The Lions secured a historic victory over the Chiefs in Hamilton in Round Two and were relentless in their attack, and while their defence was below par at certain times, they had enough grit to see out the victory. They didn’t, however, take their firepower into the third round and were downed 34-15 by the Highlanders in Dunedin.
The Cheetahs went into Round Two looking for their first win of the season, but the men from Bloemfontein were left winless after the Stormers delivered a workmanlike performance to overcome the home team 20-10. Round Three delivered a better outcome as the Cheetahs put up a spirited second half performance to secure a 32-31 comeback win over Sunwolves after a 28-13 half time deficit.
Prediction: The Lions have delivered more consistant performances than the men from Bloemfontein. Lions by ten points.
2015: Lions won 40-17 in Bloemfontein
2015: Lions won 34-29 in Johannesburg
2014: Lions won 60-25 in Johannesburg
2014: Lions won 21-20 in Bloemfontein
2012: Cheetahs won 26-5 in Welkom
2012: Lions won 27-25 in Johannesburg
2011: Lions won 25-20 in Bloemfontein
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Courtnal Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylan Smith
Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Jaco van der Walt, 23 Rohan Janse van Rensburg
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (c), 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Neil Marais, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Uzair Cassiem, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Maks van Dyk, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Charles Marais
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Johan Coetzee, 19 Francois Uys, 20. Hilton Lobberts, 21 Boom Prinsloo, 22 Tian Meyer, 23 Fred Zeilinga
Date: Saturday, March 19
Venue: Emirates Airlines Park, Johannesburg
Kick-off: 17:05 local (15:05 GMT)
Referee: Stuart Berry
Assistant Referees: Glen Jackson, Rasta Rasivhenge
TMO: Johan Greeff