This match has all the potential of a great spectacle with players like Anthony Volmink, Elton Jantjies and Willie Britz for the Lions and Cheslin Kolbe, Gio Aplon and Michael Rhodes for WP.
We might just see the game explode in the second half if WP can get out of their defensive straight jacket but will they be staring themselves blind against the “42 points in 30 minutes” at Loftus?
It will be with a certain amount of trepidation that WP run onto the field at Ellis Park on Friday night. A week ago the Lions hammered the Blue Bulls in the last 30 minutes after Morne Mellett was yellow cards and ran in six tries and 42 unanswered points, the warning is clear – allow the game to get too open and the Lions will punish mistakes.
Considering that the Lions have followed their game plan the whole year already one can be sure they will look to spread the ball wide but in the past few games they left too many opportunities unfinished and put too much pressure on their defence early on. On Saturday everything clicked in the last 30 minutes but that doesn’t mean it will click again.
The question now is: what can we expect from Friday night’s game?
Both teams have strengthened their forward packs, the Lions by starting CJ van der Linde and by selecting more ball carriers amongst the loose forwards and WP by selecting Tiaan Liebenberg to start, so we can expect a battle for forward domination and possession, especially during the first half. The team that can provide its strikers quick and clean ball will be in the best position to attack.
The Lions’ reconstructed forward pack gives it a much more solid look-feel with a strong front row, more balance amongst the loosies and more punch overall. The Lions’ pack has given 40-50kgs to their opponents in every match so far, the new starting pack has shed most of that weight difference, which should stand them in good stead in the scrums and mauls, while losing little of its mobility.
The battle between the likes of Willie Britz, Warwick Tecklenburg and Lambert Groenewald versus Rynhardt Elstadt and Michael Rhodes will be interesting, so too the match up between the two young props Ruan Dreyer and Steven Kitshoff.
But all this will be to lay the table for the main meal, the match up between two dangerous backlines.
Elton Jantjies takes on his former team mates from the #10 spot, and this is where it could go all pear shape for WP, with the unimpressive Kurt Coleman in charge. There’s enough talent in both backlines to be dangerous if allowed space and time but will WP risk going open? We know the Lions will.
Unfortunately for WP some of their most talented players thrive on open play, players like Gio Aplon, Juan de Jongh and Cheslin Kolbe, but to give them the opportunity will also mean giving the Lions strikers opportunities.
Unless WP can dominate possession and territory I think they will try and keep the game as tight as possible for as long as possible and the Lions will have their work cut out to break WP’s defensive structures.
Without Stokkies Hanekom the Lions have lost some punch in the midfield but with the advantage that the speedsters Volmink and Helberg have had more opportunities. While they are not direct opponents speedsters Volmink and Kolbe could entertain the crowd with some great running out wide.
After last week we Lions supporters may feel our team is invincible but make no mistake, the have a tough task this weekend against a much more experienced side:
The Lions have the team to pull off the win needed but it’s going to be tight and they will have to counter WP’s defence.
Elton Jantjies and Marnitz Boshoff have combined well whenever Elton came on and Marnitz moved to fullback and hopefully they will continue to do so starting at 10 and 15 as I feel their synergy are key to the Lions breaking the WP defence and winning this match.
Lions by 9
Golden Lions: 15 Marnitz Boshoff, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Robert De Bruyn, 12 Dylan Des Fountain, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Guy Cronje, 8 Lambert Groenewald, 7 Derick Minnie (captain), 6 Warwick Tecklenburg, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Willie Britz, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 CJ van der Linde.
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Hugo Kloppers, 19 JJ Breet, 20 Jaco Kriel, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Andries Coetzee.
Western Province: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Cheslin Kolbe, 10 Kurt Coleman, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Nizaam Carr, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Deon Fourie (captain), 5 De Kock Steenkamp, 4 Michael Rhodes, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Gerbrandt Grobler, 19 Rohan Kitshoff, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Tim Swiel, 22 Michael van der Spuy.