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SEMI-FINAL PREVIEW: Lions v Highlanders

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Thursday, July 28, 2016    allblacks.com    Getty Images

Match details: Lions v Highlanders, 1am Sunday 31 July (NZT), Ellis Park, Johannesburg

TALE OF THE TAPE
Both teams had contrasting yet equally impressive wins last week. The Lions clinical attack got them home against the Crusaders while the Highlanders meritorious defence brought them the spoils against the Brumbies. In their previous clash this year, the Highlanders ran away comfortable winners 34-15 but will find things tougher at Ellis Park. The Johannesburg-based side have won eight of their 10 home games this season and will be buoyed by their five-try demolition of the Crusaders at the same venue last week.


LETHAL LIONS
While the Highlanders have conceded the fewest amount of tries this season, they will need to be extra vigilant against the top attacking team in Super Rugby. With ball in hand, the Lions have scored more tries, made more metres and beat more defenders than any other team in the competition. Outside backs Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Lionel Mapoe and Courtnall Skosan have been particularly potent with nine tries each. 

QUICK TAP: UNPREDICTABILITY NEEDED TO BEAT NZ TEAMS SAYS LIONS

DAY TIME FOOTY
For the first time this season, the Highlanders will play a day time match. With a local kick off time of 3pm (1am Sunday NZT), both teams will be looking to exploit the dry conditions and set their exciting backlines alight. The Johannesburg-based side have turned Ellis Park into a Lion’s den this season and will be looking to run the reliable Highlanders defence ragged in what shapes as a classic clash.

WONDERFUL WAISAKE
With 11 tries from his last 10 Investec Super Rugby matches, the Highlanders boast a world class finisher in Waisake Naholo. The electric wing has added another dimension to the Highlanders attack since returning from injury in round 11 and rounds out a dangerous back three with Patrick Osborne on the left wing and Ben Smith at fullback. The head-to-head clash between Naholo and Lions speedster Courtnall Skosan could prove vital with either player capable of turning the match on its head.
TEAMS
Lions: 15: Andries Coetzee 14: Ruan Combrinck 13: Lionel Mapoe 12: Rohan Janse van Rensburg 11: Courtnall Skosan 10: Elton Jantjies 9: Francois de Klerk 8: Ruan Ackermann 7: Warwick Tecklenburg 6: Jaco Kriel 5: Franco Mostert 4: Andries Ferreira 3: Julian Redelinghuys 2: Malcolm Marx 1: Dylan Smith
Reserves: 16: Armand van der Merwe 17: Corne Fourie 18: Jacques van Rooyen 19: Lourens Erasmus 20: Stephan de Wit 21: Dillon Smit 22: Howard Mnisi 23: Jaco van der Walt

Highlanders: 15: Ben Smith (C) 14: Waisake Naholo 13: Matt Faddes 12: Malakai Fekitoa 11:, Patrick Osborne 10: Lima Sopoaga 9: Aaron Smith 8: Luke Whitelock 7: James Lentjes 6: Elliot Dixon 5: Tom Franklin 4: Alex Ainley 3: Josh Hohneck 2: Ash Dixon 1: Daniel Lienert-Brown
Reserves: 16: Greg Pleasants-Tate 17: Aki Seiuli 18: Ross Geldenhuys 19: Joe Wheeler 20: Liam Squire 21: Dan Pryor 22: Te Aihe Toma 23: Marty Banks