PREVIEW: Lions v Waratahs (semifinal)

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Friday, July 27, 2018    Getty Images

Match details: Lions v Waratahs, 1.05am Sunday 29 July (NZT), Johannesburg, South Africa

Played: 11
Won: Lions 4, Waratahs 7
Last time: Lions 29, Waratahs 0 (4 April 2018)


Both teams came into the playoffs with ten regular season wins under the belt to secure the top spot in their respective conference. The Lions were impressive in securing a 40-23 quarterfinal win over the Jaguares with first five-eighth Elton Jantjies steering the ship superbly. The Waratahs pulled off one of the great Super Rugby playoff comebacks of all time against the Highlanders last week. Trailing 6-23 at halftime, the Waratahs demolished the Highlanders in the second half to win 30-23 and book their spot in the semifinals.

One of the key head-to-head battles will come at hooker where the dynamic Malcolm Marx squares off with Wallaby star Tolu Latu. Marx has stamped his mark in the top echelon of front row forwards during this year’s Super Rugby campaign. His explosive ball-running has netted nine tries while his strong set piece play and tireless work at the breakdown have provided an added dimension to his game. Latu has come off the bench in his eight appearances this year but a string of strong efforts from the bench has captivated coach Daryl Gibson in to giving him a starting berth.
The Lions have beaten 27 defenders per game this season, more than any other team in the competition.

Much of the Lions success over recent years can be put down to the fortress they have created at Emirates Airline Park (formerly Ellis Park) in Johannesburg. Their last loss at home was way back in round seven to competition favourites the Crusaders by the tightest of margins (14-8). The Waratahs have it all against them in this clash. The travel, the altitude, the hostile crowd and playing against a team gunning for their third straight final. It should be enough to get the Lions home, but if the Waratahs play like they did in the second half against the Highlanders then anything is possible.

1. Jacques Van Rooyen 2 Malcolm Marx 3. Ruan Dreyer 4. Marvin Orie 5. Franco Mostert 6. Kwagga Smith 7. Lourens Erasmus 8. Warren Whiteley 9. Ross Cronje 10. Elton Jantjies 11. Aphiwe Dyantyi 12. Harold Vorster 13. Lionel Mapoe 14. Ruan Combrinck 15. Andries Coetzee
Reserves 16. Corne Fourie 17. Dylan Smith 18. Johannes Jonker 19. Hacjivah Dayimani 20. Marnus Schoeman 21. Dillon Smit 22. Courtnall Skosan 23. Howard Mnisi

Waratahs: 1. Tom Robertson 2. Tolu Latu 3. Sekope Kepu 4. Jed Holloway 5. Rob Simmons 6. Ned Hanigan 7. Will Miller 8. Michael Wells 9. Nick Phipps 10. Bernard Foley 11. Taqele Naiyaravoro 12. Kurtley Beale 13. Curtis Rona 14. Alex Newsome 15. Israel Folau
Reserves 16. Damien Fitzpatrick 17. Harry Johnson-Holmes 18. Paddy Ryan 19. Tom Staniforth 20. Brad Wilkin 21. Jake Gordon 22. Bryce Hegarty 23. Cam Clark