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PREVIEW: Hurricanes v Lions

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Friday, April 29, 2016    allblacks.com    Getty Images

Round 10: Lions v Hurricanes, 3.05am Sunday 1 May (NZT), Johannesburg

TALE OF THE TAPE
Although the Hurricanes have won eight of their last nine clashes against the Lions, the 2016 Lions vintage is on another level to its predecessors. Traditionally one of the weaker teams from South Africa, the Lions have won six of their eight matches this year to shape as a genuine title contender. Their form at Ellis Park has also been strong with wins over the Cheetahs and Stormers offsetting a close loss to the Crusaders.

BEAUDEN’S BOOT

While Beauden Barrett’s game-breaking, tactical kicking and backline control have been of the highest order in 2016, there has been question marks around his goal-kicking. These were highlighted last week when Barrett missed a number of straightforward attempts in the one-point loss to the Chiefs. Ahead of the Ellis Park clash, his halves partner TJ Perenara said: “It had been a bad day at the office for Barrett, but that was something all kickers go through, you couldn't be 100 percent all the time and his mindset was fine and he would step up again this week.”

FIFITA STEPS UP
Hard running lock Vaea Fifita is the only change to the starting fifteen that came close to toppling the Chiefs last week. The 23-year-old Tongan born powerhouse will provide some valuable go-forward ball against a Lions side that loves the physical exchanges. He will partner Michael Fatialofa in an inexperienced but gifted second row with Blade Thomson providing the impact from the bench.

TIMELY BOOST
With every clash vital in Investec Super Rugby, the Hurricanes have received a big boost with Ardie Savea withdrawing from Olympics contention to focus on fifteens. The dynamic loose forward has been in sublime form in 2016 and has formed an electric combination with Victor Vito and Brad Shields. If Savea was still available for the Olympics squad, this clash would have been his last Super Rugby match of the season.

THE FAF AND ELTON SHOW
One of the keys to the Lions success this year has been the dynamic halfback-first-five pairing of Faf de Klerk and Elton Jantjies. Along with a quality passing and kicking game, de Klerk is a dangerous runner from the base of the ruck while Jantjies is developing into the perfect all round pivot. With 109 points already this season, Jantjies is second only to prolific Chiefs star Damian McKenzie on the overall ladder. To make it harder for the Hurricanes defence, the classy duo boast exciting ball runners in Jaco van der Walt, Ruan Combrinck and Lionel Mapoe on their outside.

TEAMS:
Lions: 15 Jaco van der Walt, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 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 Pieter Scholtz, 2 Armand van der Merwe, 1 Dylan Smith
Reserves: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Jacques van Rooyen, 19 Ruan Ackermann, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 JW Bell, 23 Rohan Janse van Rensburg

Hurricanes: 15: Jason Woodward 14: Cory Jane 13: Matt Proctor 12: Vince Aso 11: Julian Savea 10: Beauden Barrett 9: TJ Perenara (vc) 8: Victor Vito 7: Ardie Savea 6: Brad Shields 5: Michael Fatialofa 4: Vaea Fifita 3: Jeffery Toomaga-Allen 2: Dane Coles (c) 1: Reg Goodes
Reserves: 16: Motu Matu'u 17: Chris Eves 18: Loni Uhila 19: Blade Thomson 20: Callum Gibbins 21: Jamison Gibson-Park 22: James Marshall 23: Willis Halaholo.