It will be a classic clash of styles when the Emirates Lions host the Hurricanes in Johannesburg on Friday. This match will start the local Vodacom Super Rugby season and looking at the history of the teams in recent times, could easily be a clash of contracting styles. The home side had the best discipline in the 2014 competition and only conceded 9.6 penalties per game (Stats provided by Opta).
They also won 91% of scrums on their own feed and will no doubt look to dominate in that area again. Starving the Hurricanes of possession seems to be the trick in beating them. It will not be easy as the men in yellow and black in 2014 averaged more possession per game than any other and managed to beat more defenders than anyone else.
The visitors have the knowledge that they have done well against the Lions in the last couple of seasons. They won the last five matches between the sides, but will be aware that the home side finished the season with three straight wins last year. The Lions will find motivation in the fact that the Hurricanes does not seem to start well, or travel well. The Wellington-based side has lost their opening fixture in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 and has lost five of their last seven outings in South Africa.
New Hurricanes coach, Chris Boyd, lost All Black lock Jeremy Thrush to injury and has named Mark Abbott as his replacement. Lions coach, Johann Ackermann, included debutant Malcolm Marx in his starting pack, a clear indication that he plans to take the game to the visitors up front. Marx is a big and abrasive hooker and at 1.88m and 119kg the Junior Springbok will bring even more physical grunt to the Lions.
The rest of the team is tried and tested, something Ackermann is pleased about. “The core of the side is there, and it is nice to have that balance, knowing that there are guys going into their second Super Rugby campaign together. There was stiff competition in all positions,” he said.
The teams are:
Lions: Andries Coetzee, Ruan Combrinck, Lionel Mapoe, Howard Mnisi, Courtnall Skosan, Marnitz Boshoff, Ross Cronje, Warren Whiteley (c), Derick Minnie, Jaco Kriel, Franco Mostert, Martin Muller, Ruan Dreyer, Malcolm Marx, Schalk Van Der Merwe. Replacements: Armand Van Der Merwe, Corne Fourie, Jacques Van Rooyen, Robert Kruger, Warwick Tecklenburg, Faf De Klerk, Elton Jantjies, Stokkies Hanekom.
Hurricanes: Jason Woodward, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Reynold Lee-Lo, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, TJ Perenara, Blade Thomson, Ardie Savea, Brad Shields, James Broadhurst, Mark Abbott, Jeff Allen, Dane Coles, Ben Franks. Replacements: Brayden Mitchell, Reg Goodes, Chris Eves, Callum Gibbins, Victor Vito, Chris Smylie, James Marshall, Matt Proctor.