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Preview: Lions v Blues

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Thursday, March 13, 2014    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

HEAD TO HEAD: Played: 17, Lions 4, Blues 13

LAST TIME:
Lions 3 lost to Blues 25, May 11, 2012, Eden Park

WALKING WOUNDED: Home team the Lions are in the happy position of suffering no injuries in their loss to the Sharks but they are still without long-standing injury concerns Derick Minnie, Michael Bondesio and Alwyn Hollenbach. For the Blues, No.8 Peter Saili is suffering a patella tendon injury which has resulted in a shuffle of the loose forwards with Steven Luatua moving to No.8 and Brendon O'Connor starting at blindside flanker.

FORM: The Lions started with two wins, over the Cheetahs and Stormers but have rounded out their domestic derbies with losses to the Bulls and Sharks. The Blues will be their first taste of competition against an overseas side since their return to the competition. The Blues left for South Africa with a 50 percent record having lost to the Highlanders but beat the Crusaders. And then played poorly in losing to the Bulls 22-38 at the weekend.

WE THINK: Both teams have made evident their desire to take points from this game. The home team will be looking to regain some of the initiative that saw them start so well. Their desire to make the most of goal-kicking chances is evident in the selection of Marnitz Boshoff, and may also be a reaction to the rain that has made its presence felt over the last two weeks. The Blues have made some selection gambles by taking Charles Piutau from fullback to the wing, perhaps as much because his strike power has been eliminated by rival sides in the No.15 jersey, while replacing him with Benji Marshall, who will surely be the most watched individual in the game. But the selection of Brendon O'Connor on the blindside flank to work with Luke Braid and Steven Luatua offers some intriguing prospects in the loose. We expect the Blues to achieve their aim of taking four points from this match.

TEAMS:

Lions: 1.Schalk van der Merwe, 2.Robbie Coetzee, 3.Julian Redelinghuys, 4.Franco Mostert, 5.Franco van der Merwe, 6.Jaco Kriel, 7.Willie Britz, 8.Warren Whiteley (captain), 9.Faf de Klerk, 10.Marnitz Boshoff, 11.Courtnall Skosan, 12.Stefan Watermeyer, 13.Deon van Rensburg, 14.JW Jonker, 15.Coenie van Wyk.

Reserves: 16.Willie Wepener, 17.Corne Fourie, 18.Ruan Dreyer, 19.MB Lusaseni, 20.Warwick Tecklenburg, 21.Ross Cronje, 22.Elton Jantjies, 23.Ruan Combrinck.

Blues: 1.Tony Woodcock, 2.James Parsons, 3.Charlie Faumuina, 4.Patrick Tuipulotu, 5.Tom Donnelly, 6.Brendan O'Connor, 7.Luke Braid (captain), 8.Steven Luatua, 9.Piri Weepu, 10.Chris Noakes, 11.Charles Piutau, 12.Pita Ahki, 13.George Moala, 14.Frank Halai, 15.Benji Marshall.

Reserves: 16.Tom McCartney, 17.Sam Prattley, 18.Angus Ta'avao, 19.Liaki Moli, 20.Jordan Manihera, 21.Bryn Hall, 22.Simon Hickey, 23.Jackson Willison.

REFEREE: Stuart Berry