Preview: Lions v Hurricanes
SUPER RUGBY SEMIFINAL: Just send the points now. Don't bother to pitch up, because you are just not good enough.
That is the theme of the anti-Lions brigade's whining this week.
They base their argument on a few points:
1. The Lions have not played any New Zealand teams this year and will not cope with the Hurricanes' intensity.
2. Flyhalf Elton Jantjies don't have the mental aptitude to cope with big games.
3. The Hurricanes - the only team to beat the Crusaders this year - is simply a class above.
Whether those are factual or fictional will only be revealed on Saturday.
As the Lions said repeatedly this week. They can only take care of their own game, take care of what they must do and ignore the sideshows.
Lions attack coach Swys de Bruin admitted they have made "one or two adjustments" to their game, as they look to cope with the Hurricanes' pressure game.
"We believe that [the tweaks] will work," De Bruin told rugby365.
"I can't tell you much more, because [Hurricanes assistant coach and former Sharks mentor] John Plumtree still understands a bit of Afrikaans," the Lions' attack coach quipped.
Plumtree and De Bruin are very familiar with each other.
"I was with him in Durban for about five years," De Bruin said, adding: "I was the High Performance coach at the [Sharks] academy.
"I know him very well and I often listened to him and watched him.
"He will certainly put pressure on the rucks and the defensive lines - that is how they [the Hurricanes] play."
Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd said he was not sure if the Lions' lack of New Zealand opposition this year would indeed be a factor.
He said the one certainty is that it would be a free-flowing and entertaining game.
"I think there's going to be some tired legs at the end of 80 minutes," Boyd said.
"If they [the Lions] continue to play with optimism - which we applaud - and we will most certainly be doing the same, I think it will be hard and fast."
Lions coach Johan Ackermann echoed similar sentiments.
He felt both teams will look to play and 'exciting' brand of rugby.
"It is important for us to look after our own game and keep up with the intensity the Hurricanes bring," Ackermann said.
"We will need to lift our game if we want to compete with one of the best teams - if not the best - in the competition."
The Lions may be the most expansive of all the South African teams, by they have retained a physical edge.
"They run hard with the ball, so we going to have to deal with a physical onslaught," Boyd said.
2016: Hurricanes won 20-3, Wellington (Final)
2016: Hurricanes won 50-17, Johannesburg
2015: Hurricanes won 22-8, Johannesburg
2012: Hurricanes won 30-28, Johannesburg
2011: Hurricanes won 38-27, Wellington
2010: Hurricanes won 33-18, Wellington
2009: Hurricanes won 38-32, Johannesburg
2008: Hurricanes won 38-12, Wellington
2007: Lions won 30-7, Johannesburg
2006: Hurricanes won 29-16, Wellington
Prediction: This will be the first meeting between these teams since the Hurricanes won the 2016 trophy after beating the Lions 20-3 in last year's final; overall, the Wellington squad have won all but one of their previous 11 games against the Lions. The Lions will be looking to become just the second South African team in Super Rugby history to appear in back-to-back finals after the Bulls did so in 2009 and 2010. This will be the Hurricanes' first ever Finals game in South Africa, where they've won four of their last five games (including two wins against the Lions). The Hurricanes (39) and Lions (38) average the most points scored per game of any teams in the competition so far this season, while each has also conceded a league-low 18 points per game. After returning for the Hurricanes last week for the first time since Round Four, Dane Coles is now set to line up for his 100th Super Rugby game. Franco Mostert has stolen 14 line-outs so far this season, six more than any other player and 11 more than Hurricanes' best Vaea Fifita and Brad Shields (three each). The bookmakers have installed the Hurricanes favourites, although their margin is only a penalty. Their margin might not be that far off, but we have sneaking suspicion the Lions will sneak this - by five points or less.
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 Franco 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.
Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Nehe Milner-Skudder, 13 Vince Aso, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Wes Goosen, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Thomas Perenara, 8 Brad Shields, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Sam Lousi, 4 Mark Abbott, 3 Jeffery To’omaga-Allen, 2 Dane Coles (captain), 1 Ben May.
Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Loni Uhila, 19 Reed Prinsep, 20 Callum Gibbins, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Otere Black, 23 Julian Savea.
Date: Saturday, July 29
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Kick-off: 14.30 (12.30 GMT; 00.30, Sunday, July 30, NZ time)
Expected weather: Pleasant day, with plenty of sunshine. High of 20°C and a low of 6°C
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa), Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
Compiled by Jan de Koning
* Statistics provided by Opta Sports & sportguru.info