Preview: Lions v Sharks
SUPER RUGBY QUARTERFINAL: The Sharks must be the most successful team never to have won the trophy.
Their failures in play-off matches are well-documented.
The Durban-based franchise has been runners-up five times, lost in the semifinals on another four occasions and got knocked out in the quarterfinals or preliminary play-off stages twice more.
The Lions, in contrast, can claim a Super Rugby title.
And for the cynics, go look at the teamsheets for the 1993 Final between Transvaal and Auckland to understand why the Super 10 was a genuinely SUPER.
The Lions also appeared in two others finals - having lost 16-30 to Queensland in the 1995 Final and 3-20 to the Hurricanes last year.
Saturday's quarterfinal between the Lions and Sharks in Johannesburg will only be the fifth all-South African play-off in the history of the competition.
The Sharks may have appeared in more play-off matches than the Lions, but they have lost their last five matches against the men from Johannesburg - including twice this year.
The Lions won 27-10 in Durban last week.
Lions coach Johan Ackermann is adamant there is no chance of complacency, despite the team's recent success against their visitors from Durban.
"A lot of hard work went in [to getting into the play-offs],"Ackermann told a media briefing this week, adding that they have learnt some valuable lessons from their loss to the Hurricanes in last year's Final as well as the quarterfinal (against the Crusaders) and semifinal (Highlanders) victories.
"Hopefully the guys will understand the pressure that comes with the play-offs," the coach said, adding: "You only get one shot at it.
"If you don't do the small things well, you are out of here."
Ackermann said that while you don't have to score as many tries in the play-offs as in league matches, it is ion the Lions' DNA to score tries.
"The players are like race horses, they have been groomed and drilled to play in a certain way.
"It would be unfair to expect them to change now."
Ackermann said he wants the Lions to play with the same freedom they had all season, despite it being a play-off where even a one-point win will be good enough.
"I will trust [captain] Jaco [Kriel] to make the right decisions in that regards,"he said of the calls to attack or kick for goal, when to play for territory and when to tone it down.
Ackermann dismissed the notion of complacency, saying they will always 'respect' the opposition.
"I will be disappointed if we, as a group, don't prepare with the same attitude as for any other side."
Sharks coach Robert du Preez was confident his men could cause an upset, despite there recent run of defeats against the Lions.
"This is finals rugby and whatever has transpired previously is irrelevant in this match," Du Preez said.
"It's going to come down to our execution, discipline, but most of all it is about who wants it the most.
"We called for greater intensity this week and our players have heeded that call.
"There is no greater motivation to perform than when you are playing knock-out rugby and everyone is looking forward to this match.
"We want to show what our jersey means to us and make our fans proud."
2017: Lions win 27-10, Durban
2017: Lions won 34-29, Johannesburg
2016: Lions won 37-10, Johannesburg
2016: Lions won 24-9, Durban
2015: Lions won 23-21, Johannesburg
2015: Sharks won 29-12, Durban
Prediction: The Lions have won the last five meetings between these teams, after earning just two wins and a draw from their 13 clashes prior. This will also be the first time these teams have met in the play-offs. The Lions have won their last 12 games on the bounce, a 13th win would be the longest winning streak ever by a South African team, eclipsing the 12-game streak set by the Bulls across 2009 and 2010. The Sharks have scored just 12 points in their last three Finals fixtures away from home, including a tally of zero when they travelled to Wellington in last season’s quarter-finals. The Sharks have slotted 47 penalty goals this season, no other side landed more than 31. Ruan Combrinck is set to line up for his 50th Super Rugby cap; he has scored five tries in his last four games for the Lions. If you are a Lions supporter you will be nervous - because not only is it a play-off match, where anything can happen, but also because the Sharks are a genuine threat. However, we feel the Lions have too much class and should win by 12 points.
Determining Winners if teams are tied at full-time:
a) Extra Time - the procedure will be:
i) After a five minute rest period, the extra time is played in two 10 minute periods with a two minute half-time;
ii) Before the extra time begins, the match Referee will do a coin toss with the two captains one minute before the new kick-off. The winner of the coin toss decides if his team wants to kick-off or if his team wants to choose the side of the pitch it wants to play on for the first 10 minute period;
iii) For the second 10 minute period, the teams change sides and the team that did not kick off in the first period does so;
iv) Coaches are not permitted on the field during the rest period or half-time.
v) Teams and match officials must remain on the field during the rest period and at half-time.
vi) Injury time is added to the two 10 minute periods.
b) Sudden Death - if the match is still tied at the end of extra time, the procedure will be:
i) An up to 10 minute sudden death period is played after another five minute rest period;
ii) The first team to score (by a penalty, drop-goal or try) will be the winner;
iii) As for extra time, one minute before sudden death begins, the match Referee will do a coin toss to choose which team kicks-off and on which side of the pitch they will play.
iv) Teams and match officials must remain on the field during the rest period.
v) Injury time is added to this period of play.
c) Kicking Competition - if the match is still tied at the end of sudden death, the referee will conduct a place kicking competition to determine the winner of the match, according to the following procedures:
i) All Players and Match officials will remain on the Playing Area. The referee will call the captains of the two teams together and will conduct a coin toss. The winner of the coin toss then may either choose which Team kicks first (in which case the loser chooses the end at which all place kicks will be taken) or choose the end at which all place kicks will be taken (in which case the loser chooses which team kicks first).
Each team must nominate five players to take part in the competition. Only players on the playing area at the final whistle of extra time may be nominated. No substituted players, injury-replaced players or players who have been shown a red card may take part at any time. For clarification purposes, any player who has received a yellow card and who remains in the sin bin at the time of the final whistle of extra time may not take part in the place kick competition (including during ‘sudden death’). The order in which the nominated players will kick does not have to be pre-determined. The match officials and the 10 nominated players (five from each team) will assemble on the half-way line. Team management and players not nominated must remain behind the half-way line in the side of the playing area not used. No one other than the match officials, the match manager, two ball persons and the participating players are allowed in the part of the playing area being used for the competition (including around the playing area, behind the posts, etc).The five players from each team will place kick from three different points, all on the 22 metre line, as follows:
* First point: directly in front of the posts
* Second point: on the 15 metre line on the left hand side facing the posts
* Third point: on the 15 metre line on the right hand side facing the posts. The referee will start the competition by calling the first player selected from the team kicking first to the first kicking point. Once the player has taken the place kick, the referee calls a player from the opposing team to take his place kick from the same point. The next two players (one from each team) will place kick from the second point in turn. This will continue until all five players from each team have place kicked (the next players place kicking respectively from the third point, the first point and finally the second point), or until one team is unable to equal the score of the other team within the remaining number of kicks (at which time the referee will declare the winner).If there are an equal number of successful kicks once each team has completed its five place kicks, the competition continues on a 'sudden death' basis, following the same order of kickers used in the first five kicks. The competition will continue two kickers at a time (one from each team), going progressively through the three kicking points as stated above (and repeating the process if necessary) until one player succeeds with a place kick and the player from the other team taking the same place kick misses it. Once this occurs, the team of the player who succeeded with the place kick will be declared the winner. Each of these additional kicks shall be taken by the same five players in rotation. Throughout the place kicking competition:
* Once a player has positioned the ball on the kicking tee, he must take the kick within one minute. Should he take longer, the referee shall declare the kick unsuccessful.
* After each kick, the referee records the number of the player and whether or not the attempt was successful. The sideline manager/substitution recorder will record the same details on the official match report.
* Whether or not the kick is successful in each case is the sole decision of the referee, who may at his sole discretion rely on the assistance of his assistant referees. The referee’s decision shall be final and binding.
* Once a player has completed their place kick, they shall return to stand with their team behind the half-way line in the side of the playing area not used.
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Ruan Ackermann, 7 Albertus Smith, 6 Jaco Kriel (captain), 5 Francois Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Francois de Klerk, 22 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 23 Sylvian Mahuza.
Sharks: 15 Lwazi Mvovo, 14 Jacobus van Wyk, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Sibusiso Nkosi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Jacobus Reinach, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip van der Walt (captain), 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Coenraad Oosthuizen, 2 Mahlatse Ralepelle, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Replacements: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Jean Droste, 20 Lubabalo Mtembu, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Garth April, 23 Jeremy Ward.
Date: Saturday, July 22
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Kick-off: 14.30 (12.30 GMT)
Expected weather: Pleasant with plenty of sunshine. High of 21°C and a low of 6°C
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco van Heerden (South Africa), Egon Seconds (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
Compiled by Jan de Koning
* Statistics provided by Opta Sports & sportguru.info