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PREVIEW: Hurricanes v Lions

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Friday, May 4, 2018    allblacks.com    Getty Images


Match details:
Hurricanes v Lions, 7.35pm Saturday 5 May, Westpac Stadium, Wellington. TICKETS.

Played: 12
Won: Hurricanes 10, Lions 2
Last time: Hurricanes 29, Lions 44 (29 July 2017)

FORM
The Lions may have a big buffer at the top of the South African conference but haven’t enjoyed the consistency of their stellar 2017 season with six wins and four losses. With ball in hand they have been lethal with an average of 29 defenders beaten per match – more than any other team in the competition. The Hurricanes are potentially the form team of the entire competition with seven straight wins since their season opening loss to the Bulls. They were tested by the Sunwolves last week but added three tries in the final seven minutes to win 43-15. 

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TOO MUCH TALENT
The Hurricanes faced the best possible selection problem this week when they had to leave the impressive Vince Aso out of their match-day 23. Aso was one of the best on the park for the Hurricanes against the Sunwolves last week but hasn’t been able to crack the side this week. With Ngani Laumape back in the midfield, there was no room for Aso to be accommodated on the wing with Julian Savea and Ben Lam out wide and Nehe Milner-Skudder on the bench. Coach Chris Boyd was sympathetic to Aso’s plight and said he would still play a big role in their campaign: "If luck was determined by your ability to get selected on the team sheet, he'd probably be the most unlucky player on the planet,” Boyd said.

KEY CLASH

From the speedsters out wide, to the playmakers inside, and the powerful ball runners upfront, there are a number of pivotal head-to-head clashes across the park. One of the biggest battles will come in the number two jersey where Ricky Riccitelli and Malcolm Marx clash. 23-year-old Marx has become somewhat of a cult hero in Johannesburg where many rate him as the world’s best rake. Riccitelli has stepped into the shoes of an injured Dane Coles admirably this year but faces his biggest test against Marx. While both are adept at set-piece time, expect to see plenty of them around the park as they take a leading role in what should be an extremely tense clash. 

FAST FACT (Opta)
The Hurricanes haven’t lost a home game against a South African opponent since Round 11 in 2013.

TEAMS
Hurricanes:
Jordie Barrett, Julian Savea, Matt Proctor, Ngani Laumape, Ben Lam, Beauden Barrett, Finlay Christie, Gareth Evans, Ardie Savea, Brad Shields (c), Michael Fatialofa, Vaea Fifita, Jeff To'omaga-Allen, Ricky Riccitelli, Toby Smith. Reserves: James O'Reilly, Chris Eves, Ben May, Sam Lousi, Reed Prinsep, Jamie Booth, Ihaia West, Nehe Milner-Skudder.

Lions:
Andries Coetzee, Ruan Combrinck, Lionel Mapoe, Harold Vorster, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Elton Jantjies, Nic Groom, Kwagga Smith, Cyle Brink, Marnus Schoeman, Franco Mostert, Lourens Erasmus, Jacobie Adriaanse, Malcolm Marx, Dylan Smith
Reserves: Robbie Coetzee, Ruan Dreyer, Johannes Jonker, Marvin Orie, Hacjivah Dayimani, Ashlon Davids, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Sylvian Mahuza