Match Preview: Lions v Highlanders

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Thursday, May 16, 2019    Getty Images

Match Detail: Lions v Highlanders, Emirate Airlines Park, Johannesburg, Sunday 19 May 1.05am

Played: 12
Won: Lions 6, Highlanders 6
Last time: Highlanders won 39-27 in Dunedin
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge

The Lions have had a mixed bag season so far in 2019. They’ve recorded six wins and five losses but sit low in the South African conference in fourth place. They opened their campaign with a 25-16 win over the Jaguares in Buenos Aires. They then went on to lose to the Stormers and Bulls, before defeating the Jaguares again, this time at home. The Lions had close wins over the Rebels and Sunwolves and then lost to the Sharks and Brumbies. They travelled to Hamilton and picked up a great win over the Chiefs, before losing to the Crusaders and just beating the Waratahs last week 29-28 at home. The Highlanders started 2019 well with a tight 30-27a win over the Chiefs and a 36-31h victory over the Reds. But they then went into a serious slump, recording five losses and a draw. Their worst loss was a 43-17a thumping at the hands of the Crusaders. The Highlanders have got their season back on track in recent weeks, beating the Blues, Sunwolves, drawing with the Chiefs and edging the Jaguares 32-27h last week. 
Matt Faddes has scored three tries in his last four Super Rugby games, however, his last try away from home was back in Round 12, 2017. Lions fullback Andrias Coetzee sits in fifth place on the most offloads table. He’s offloaded the ball 15 times, but he’s still 13 behind Anton Lienert-Brown who tops the chart with 28 offloads. 

Waisake Naholo has been named on the Highlanders bench for Sunday morning’s match. The All Blacks winger suffered a knee injury at the start of April and has been sidelined ever since. Whilst he’s been injured, Crusaders wingers Sevu Reece and George Bridge have been in impressive form and will have put the pressure on Naholo in All Blacks talks. He also recently announced a move to London Irish at the end of the year. The 28 year-old will be determined to put in some good performances over the final few weeks of Super Rugby, not only for his Rugby World Cup chances, but for the Highlanders playoff chances as well. 

The Highlanders have never won against the Lions in Johannesburg, in five attempts dating back to 1997. 

FAST FACT (Opta Sports)
The winner has alternated in the last 10 matches between the Lions and Highlanders. Both sides have won five games each. 

Lions: 15 Andrias Coetzee, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marvin Oire, 4 Stephen Lewies, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Malcolm Marx (C), 1 Dylan Smith. Reserves: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Vincent Tshituka, 20 Hacjivah Dayimani, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Shaun Reynolds, 23 Tyrone Green 

Highlanders: 15 Matt Faddes, 14 Jordan Hyland, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Patelesio Tomkinson, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Shannon Frizell, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Luke Whitelock (C), 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Josh Dickson, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ayden Johnston. Reserves: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Jack Whetton, 20 James Lentjes, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Daniel Hollinshead, 23 Waisake Naholo