PREVIEW: Highlanders v Lions

Getty Images

Thursday, March 10, 2016    Getty Images

ROUND THREE: Highlanders v Lions, 7.35pm, Saturday 12 March, Forsyth Barr


The Lions have the edge over the Highlanders with five wins out of the nine clashes between the two sides. But history counts for nothing as the defending Super Rugby champion Highlanders are on a six match winning streak at home.

One of the keys to the Lions strong start to the 2016 season has been their classy first-five Elton Jantjies. The pint-sized pivot has sparked attack and slotted vital goals to ensure the Lions are one of the four unbeaten sides left in Super Rugby 2016. Add to that a newly added offloading ability and the 25-year-old first-five could well add to his two Springbok Test caps this year.

Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph has rung the changes in the forward pack with four changes from last week. Josh Hohneck and Tom Franklin have rotated out of the starting 23 while Shane Christie and Elliot Dixon have moved to the bench. Upfront, powerful Tongan international prop Siosiua Halanukonuka makes his debut in place of Josh Hohneck while Northland workhorse Dan Pryor gets a start at openside flanker.

Nicknamed ‘the Destroyer’, Lions loose forward Jaco Kriel has lived up to that billing with devastating ball running across the opening two rounds of Super Rugby. With 10 defenders beaten, only the Chiefs Damian McKenzie is ahead of the Lions powerhouse in that statistic. Expect Kriel to run hard and fast at the Highlanders line for the full 80 minutes.

The Highlanders backline has been hit hard with injuries to Waisake Naholo, Marty Banks, Fumi Tanaka and impressive young mid-fielder Tei Walden. Despite the injuries, the reigning champions still boast an All Blacks-laden backline that should have too much firepower for a Lions side also missing two key players – centre Lionel Mapoe and second-five-eighth Harold Vorster.

The Lions played the game of the round against the Chiefs last week and will be out to entertain again. Get your tickets HERE to see the action LIVE!

15: Ben Smith (C) 14: Matt Faddes 13: Malakai Fekitoa 12: Rob Thompson 11: Patrick Osborne 10: Lima Sopoaga 9: Aaron Smith 8: Liam Squire 7: Dan Pryor 6: Luke Whitelock 5: Joe Wheeler 4: Alex Ainley 3: Siosiua Halanukonuka 2: Liam Coltman 1: Brendon Edmonds

Reserves: Ash Dixon, Daniel Lienert-Brown, Ross Geldenhuys, Elliot Dixon, Shane Christie, Josh Renton, Hayden Parker, Jason Emery

15: Jaco van der Walt 14: Ruan Combrinck 13: Rohan Janse van Rensburg 12: Howard Mnisi 11: Courtnall Skosan 10: Elton Jantjies 9: Faf de Klerk 8: Warren Whiteley 7: Warwick Tecklenburg 6: Jaco Kriel 5: Franco Mostert 4: Andries Ferreira 3: Ruan Dreyer 2: Robbie Coetzee 1: Jacques van Rooyen

Reserves: Armand van der Merwe, Corne Fourie, Julian Redelinghuys, Robert Kruger, Ruan Ackermann, Dillon Smit, Jacques Nel, Andries Coetzee