PREVIEW: Lions v Crusaders

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Friday, March 30, 2018    Lynn McConnell    Getty Images

Match details: Lions v Crusaders, Emirates Ellis Park, Johannesburg, Monday, April 2 (NZT),

Played: 12
Won: Lions 3, Crusaders 9
Last time: Lions 17-25 Crusaders, August 5, 2017 (Super Rugby Final)


A loss to the Jaguares last week has resulted in Lions coach Swys de Bruin making seven changes to his side. The big surprise to locals is the choice of Hacjivah Dayimani at No.8. He played on the wing a week or two back for the Lions' development side. Kwagga Smith has moved back to the flank. Madosh Tambwe will play wing for the injured Aphiwe Dyantyi while Harold Vorster is at second five-eighths ahead of Rohan Janse van Rensburg. Ross Cronje hasn’t recovered from a rib injury will Dillon Smit will have his first half at halfback. Andries Ferreira is at lock after missing the Buenos Aires trip. Dylan Smith is a loosehead while Malcolm Marx is back at hooker. Crusaders coach Scott Robertson has made three changes to his side. Matt Todd is back at flanker after recovering from a rib injury, Bryn Hall gets the start at halfback while Seta Tamanivalu returns on the wing.


South African media, more so than their New Zealand counterparts, have been making much of the fact it will be flanker Kwagga Smith's chance for redemption after his sending off in last season's Super Rugby final for a dangerous tackle on fullback David Havili. Since that day Smith's star has been on the rise, mainly in Sevens but also for the Barbarians against the All Blacks last year. Lions forward coach Phillip Lemmer summed up the situation. "Kwagga is professional enough to handle it. We perhaps have to just have a look that he isn't over eager but if there is one guy who is a true professional it is Kwagga. Luckily he also has the experience of the Sevens. They play all over the world and how many times has he played in semis or finals where they have won or lost. So from a composure point of view, he is the last guy to worry about. He has a job to do, he wants responsibility and he wants to do his part, he is eager to carry his load."


The Lions at home, in spite of their loss to the Blues, go into the game with some impressive statistical backing. They have averaged 38 points a game compared to 31.4 by the Crusaders and they've scored 5.7 tries per game to 4.8 for the Crusaders. They enjoy an 85-72 percent lead in the goal-kicking stakes while they are ahead on carries 107.7-101.4 while in metres made they have 431.7 to 374.2 and they have bean 30 defenders to 17.6 by the Crusaders. Their clean breaks are 13-10.2. Just in case their attacking mode of play needs reinforcing they have managed 8.2 offloads to 6.8, 131.3 passes to 125.2 and they have conceded fewer penalties at 8 per game compared to 10.4. Their lineout success rate is 91 percent to 83 for the Crusaders. They are slightly behind the Crusaders in scrum success 86-88 and in rucks 94-95. They have also conceded more turnovers 17.8-14.6 to the visitors.


The Lions last win against the Crusaders was in February 2007 but on home turf the Lions have won 18 of their last 20 games. (Opta)


Lions: 1.Dylan Smith, 2.Malcolm Marx, 3.Ruan Dreyer, 4.Andries Ferreira, 5.Franco Mostert (captain), 6.Kwagga Smith, 7.Cyle Brink, 8.Hacjivah Dayimani, 9.Dillon Smit, 10.Elton Jantjies, 11.Madosh Tambwe, 12.Harold Vorster, 13.Lionel Mapoe, 14.Sylvian Mahua, 15.Andries Coetzee.

Substitutes: 16.Corne Fourie, 17.Jacques van Rooyen, 18.Jacobie Adriaanse, 19.Lourens Erasmus, 20.Marvin Orie, 21.Marnus Schoeman, 22.Howard Mnisi, 23.Shaun Reynolds.

Crusaders: 1.Tim Perry, 2.Codie Taylor, 3.Michael Alaalatoa, 4.Scott Barrett, 5.Sam Whitelock (captain), 6.Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 7.Matt Todd, 8.Jordan Taufua, 9.Bryn Hall, 10.Mitchell Hunt, 11.George Bridge, 12.Ryan Crotty, 13.Jack Goodhue, 14.Seta Tamanivalu, 15.David Havili.

Substitutes: 16.Ben Funnell, 17.Wyatt Crockett, 18.Oliver Jager, 19.Quinten Strange, 20.Tom Sanders, 21.Mitchell Drummond, 22.Mike Delany, 23.Manasa Mataele.