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Preview: Lions v Crusaders

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Thursday, April 3, 2014    Sportal.co.nz    Getty Images

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 16, Crusaders 12, Lions 4

LAST TIME: Lions 13 lost to Crusaders 23, March 31, 2012, Johannesburg

WALKING WOUNDED: The Lions have been worried about Coenie van Wyk's knee injury all week. He is the first five-eighths back-up to goak-kicking ace Marnitz Boshoff. Others who have strengthened the Lions' hands with returns from injury are: wing Anthony Volminck, centre Alwyn Hollenbach, utility back Deon van Rensburg, fullback Chrysander Botha, flanker Derick Minnie and hooker Malcom Marx. The Crusaders were concerned over continuing issues with Kieran Read's head knock and delayed naming their side as a result. He missed selection with Luke Whitelock taking his place at No.8. George Whitelock is on the blindside of the scrum while a calf muscle injury suffered by lock Luke Romano last week ruled him out and Dominic Bird comes into the side.

FORM: The Lions have been a surprise package after their year in the wilderness and they have been a combative unit. Most recently they have accounted for the Blues 39-36 and the Reds 23-20 and they will come off the bye looking to add to that record. The Crusaders suffered a setback when given a dust up by the Hurricanes last week but they had earlier beaten the Stormers by one point in a tight contest and the Rebels 25-19 when they struggled to get out on top.

WE THINK: The Crusaders face a massive task to get a win on Ellis Park. The loss of Kieran Read is a significant blow and will add to the confidence of the home team. It is expected the Crusaders will be stronger at scrum and lineout but the Lions are pinning their hopes on winning the battle at the breakdown and in the collisions. They will need to be strong in all areas and will need to rely on the goal-kicking of Boshoff if they are to win this game, and that is why the contest demands precision from the Crusaders. They should have too much continuity, and desperation, for the home side.

TEAMS:

Lions: 1.Schalk van der Merwe, 2.Willie Wepener, 3.Julian Redelinghuys, 4.Franco Mostert, 5.Martin Muller, 6.Jaco Kriel, 7.Willie Britz, 8.Warren Whiteley (captain), 9.Faf de Klerk, 10.Marhitz Boshoff, 11.Courtnall Skosan, 12.Stefan Watermeyer, 13.Lionel Mapoe, 14.Deon van Rensburg, 15.Andries Coetzee.

Reserves: 16.Malcolm Marx, 17.Corne Fourie, 18.Ruan Dreyer, 19.MB Lusaseni, 20.Warwick Tecklenburg, 21.Ross Cronje, 22.Elton Jantjies, 23.JW Jonker.

Crusaders: 1.Wyatt Crockett, 2.Ben Funnell, 3.Owen Franks, 4.Dominic Bird, 5.Samuel Whitelock, 6.George Whitelock, 7.Matt Todd, 8.Luke Whitelock, 9.Andy Ellis, 10.Colin Slade, 11.Johnny McNicholl, 12.Ryan Crotty, 13.Kieron Fonotia,14. Nemani Nadolo, 15.Israel Dagg.

Reserves: 16.Corey Flynn, 17.Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18.Nepo Laulala, 19.Jimmy Tupou, 20.Jordan Taufua, 21.Willi Heinz, 22.Tyler Bleydendaal, 23.Tom Taylor.

REFEREE: Marius van der Westhuizen