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Sky Live: Lions v Hurricanes Super Rugby semi-final preview

27 July 2017 2:07 PM
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Sky Live: Lions v Hurricanes Super Rugby semi-final preview

The Lions play host to the Hurricanes in their Super Rugby semi-final on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Action, in a repeat of last year's final, which Johan Ackermann's side lost 20-3 in Wellington.

The last time the Hurricanes travelled to Ellis Park, they crushed the Lions 50-17 in April 2016, but Ackermann's charges have won 15 from 16 this season and know they will contest the final at home should they get there.

Canes skipper Dane Coles returns to the starting XV for what will be his 100th appearance for the franchise, though there is no place in the team for All Blacks winger Julian Savea.

Savea was dropped from the All Blacks team for their first two Tests against the British and Irish Lions this summer but regained his place for the third after injuries to Ben Smith and Waisake Naholo.

He is left out of the Canes starting team as part of a comprehensive backline reshuffle which sees top scorer Vince Aso return at outside-centre, Jordie Barrett drop back to full-back and Nehe Milner-Skudder shift out to the wing.

The Lions are unchanged from their tight 23-21 quarter-final victory over the Sharks, with Harold Vorster retaining his place at inside-centre and Springbok Rohan Janse van Rensburg remaining among the replacements.

Should the Lions emerge victorious, the Super Rugby final would be staged in South Africa for just the fourth time since 1996.

"The Hurricanes are a team that play in your face," said Lions coach Ackermann.

"They like to put teams under pressure and they did that to us last year, so hopefully we'll handle that pressure better this time.

"Maybe we won't run as much as we did a year ago, but rather kick better tactically. We must also remember its a year later and the teams have changed since we last met here."

Canes hooker Coles will start in Johannesburg for the first time since March after being sidelined with concussion issues.

The 30-year-old will become just the 11th player ever to a rack up a century of caps after Andrew Hore, Cory Jane, Ma'a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Rodney So'oialo, Jeremy Thrush, Neemia Tialata, Tana Umaga, Victor Vito and Savea.

"Colesy is a leader and a great competitor and I know this group feeds off his presence, so it's good timing to have him fit and firing in time for what we expect to be a tough semi-final," said Hurricanes head coach Chris Boyd.

"He epitomises what the Hurricanes are about as a club on and off the field and although he probably won't want anyone to make a fuss, I'm sure his milestone will provide some motivation for his team-mates.

A key match-up will be between the fly-halves, with the Hurricanes playmaker Beauden Barrett up against Elton Jantjes for the Lions.

"Elton has been consistently good this season. He just had a bad game last weekend (against the Sharks), which happens to all 10s," Hurricanes assistant John Plumtree said.

"He didn't kick well against the Sharks last week but could easily knock everything over against us. I know Elton well and he would have worked hard during the week."

"They are a quality team and have shown that throughout the year. Ellis Park is a tough place to play and with the home crowd behind them we are under no illusions about the challenge we will face in Johannesburg."

Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje; 1 Jacques van Rooyen, 2 Malcolm Marx, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 4 Andries Ferreira, 5 Franco Mostert, 6 Jaco Kriel (captain), 7 Kwagga Smith, 8 Ruan Ackermann.

Replacements: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Faf 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 TJ Perenara; 1 Ben May, 2 Dane Coles (captain), 3 Jeff To'omaga-Allen, 4 Mark Abbott, 5 Sam Lousi, 5 Sam Lousi, 6 Vaea Fifita, 7 Ardie Savea, 8 Brad Shields.

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.

Source: skysports.com

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