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SEMIFINAL PREVIEW: Lions v Hurricanes

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Thursday, July 27, 2017    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Lions v Hurricanes, Ellis Park, 12.30am (NZT), 30 July, 2017

TALE OF THE TAPE
The sides have played 20 times with the Hurricanes winning 17. The only loss the Lions have suffered this year was to the Jaguares (24-36) in Argentina while the Hurricanes have lost three times, twice to the Chiefs (18-26, 14-17) and to the Crusaders (12-20). The two sides average the most points scored of all teams in the competition this year. The Hurricanes average 39 and the Lions 38 while they shard the league-low points against of 18 per game. It is the Hurricanes first finals game in Africa while the Lions will be looking to become the second South African side to appear in consecutive finals after the Bulls' efforts in 2009-10.


BATTLE OF THE LOOSE
Home flanker Kwagga Smith brings speed to burn to the game, especially with his sevens influence, but the Hurricanes can offer Ardie Savea as a potential rival with a similar background. "I enjoy playing against them. I've played against Ardie a few times in the Sevens and at SA Under-20 level as well, and played with Brad Shields in the Barbarians team. It's great for me to play against them, and those are the loose forwards that you want to measure yourself against," he said. Smith does have five man-of-the-match awards to show for his efforts this year and he is clearly up for the game. He told SuperSport, "It's one of the games in the season that counts. You only have one chance and you have to give it your all. It is a huge challenge to face a New Zealand team but that will also bring out the best in us as a team, you know when you play against a great team you also perform great." Smith felt the warm conditions would suit the home side more than the Hurricanes. "It might be difficult to play against them, but we play like a New Zealand team anyway. If we stick to our structures we can see what the intensity can bring, it can be quite high but I believe that can suit us a lot as well because of the way we play," he said.

UNDERDOG STATUS IS SO PASSE
Is Lions coach Johan Ackermann seriously claiming the underdog status in the semi-final? Having led the team through the campaign and arriving at this point in a season, does the underdog status really matter? Last year's two wins by the Hurricanes made them favourites, Ackermann said. "It makes them favourites again, definitely." That was especially with the Barrett brothers, Beauden and Jordie, in such good form. "The reality is that they are two of the best players in the world, they are quality players. Last year [Beauden] Barrett in the final basically won the game by himself, through his kicking and they try he scored from a turnover lineout." But then he turned around and said they were 0-0 this year. "If we perform as a team, the result is in our hands and we can't focus on how to contain one or two guys, there are too many quality players starting from one to 23," he said.

TEAMS

Lions: 1.Jacques van Rooyen, 2.Malcolm Marx, 3.Ruan Dreyer, 4.Andries Ferreira, 5.Franco Mostert, 6.Jaco Kriel (captain), 7.Kwagga Smith, 8.Ruan Ackermann, 9.Ross Cronje, 10.Elton Jantjies, 11.Courtnall Skosan, 12.Harold Vorster, 13.Lionel Mapoe, 14.Ruan Combrinck, 15.Andries Coetzee.

Substitutes: 16.Akker van der Merwe, 17.Corne Fourie, 18.Johannes Jonker, 19.Loursens Erasmus, 20.Cyle Brink, 21.Faf de Klerk, 22.Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 23.Sylvian Mahuza.

Hurricanes: 1.Ben May, 2.Dane Coles (captain), 3.Jeff To'omaga-Allen, 4.Mark Abbott, 5.Sam Lousi, 6.Vaea Fifita, 7.Ardie Savea, 8.Brad Shields, 9.TJ Perenara, 10.Beauden Barrett, 11.Wes Goosen, 12.Ngani Laumape, 13.Vince Aso, 14.Nehe Milner-Skudder, 15.Jordie Barrett.

Substitutes: 16.Ricky Riccitelli, 17.Chris Eves, 18.Loni Uhila, 19.Reed Prinsep, 20.Callum Gibbins, 21.Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22.Otere Black, 23.Julian Savea.