Super Rugby Semi-Finals: Lions v Hurricanes Preview

Lions v Hurricanes Semi-Final Preview - Three Rugby Players One Being Tackled With Ball in Hand

Our scribe runs the rule over Saturday’s second Super Rugby semi-final which sees the Lions host the Hurricanes.

Super Rugby’s two most attacking sides will lock horns in Johannesburg this Saturday in what should be one of the most entertaining knock-out games the rugby world has witnessed. The hosts come into this one off the back of a rather dour showing against the Sharks while the visitors were most impressive during their quarter-final, dispatching the Brumbies with little hassle.

Will the Lions remain kings of the concrete jungle or will the Hurricanes blow Johan Ackermann’s men away?

Lions v Hurricanes | Saturday 29 July | Emirates Airline Park | 14:30

To Win (80 Mins)
Lions 21/20 | Draw 25/1 | Hurricanes 72/100
Lions (+2.5) 9/10 | Hurricanes (-2.5) 9/10

Regardless of Saturday’s result, Johan Ackermann can leave the city of Johannesburg with his head held high. The soon to be Gloucester head coach has performed nothing short of a miracle in taking what was a fallen giant of the game and turning it into a mighty union again. Having said all that, if Ackermann’s men do manage to beat the Hurricanes and extend his tenure for an extra week, then don’t be surprised if the former ‘Bok is handed the keys to Joburg as a Super Rugby final would do wonders for the city.

If Ackermann’s side are to secure a place in the Grand Final they will need to up their game tenfold. While there were promising moments during their 23-21 quarter-final victory over the Sharks, the Lions were far from their best and spurned numerous try scoring opportunities. They will have to be a lot more clinical this Saturday as the ‘Canes will score way more points than the Sharks did.

While the entire Lions side struggled to play at their peak, pivot Elton Janjties was well below par. It’s never easy for a fly-half playing against a determined defensive line that are giving you little time on the ball but this still doesn’t legislate for Elton’s horror show with the boot. I mean, missing four guilt edge penalty attempts in a knock-out game is sacrilege. And if the ‘Bok pivot doesn’t find his mojo this week, then the Lions really have little chance of advancing to the final.

If the winner of Super Rugby was decided by who plays the best brand of rugby, then the ‘Canes would have wrapped up the tournament months ago. Chris Boyd’s men have been sensational with ball-in-hand this term and top the points scored charts by quite some distance. So devastating have the ‘Canes been on attack that the top two try scorers in this year’s competition both where the black and yellow strip.

The two men in question are centres Ngani Lamape and Vince Aso, who have been racking up five pointers for fun. The latter is set to return from injury this week, which is a massive coup for the visitors. While Jordie Barrett has done exceptionally well at outside centre, you can tell the youngest of the Barretts is a lot more comfortable with the number 15 jersey on. Aso also brings a more physical dynamic to proceedings that young Jordie simply cannot match. As such, Lions mentor Johan Ackerman would be well-advised to start Rohan Janse van Rensburg at inside centre in a bid to even the physicality stakes in the midfield.

If you weren’t impressed by the Hurricanes second half performance against the Brumbies then there’s something seriously wrong with the way you watch rugby. Down by a point at the half-time break, the ‘Canes came out firing in the second stanza and went on to score 20 unanswered points which saw them to a 35-16 victory. While the usual stars all played their hearts out, it was the relatively unknown Wes Goosen who stole the show with his two tries. Goosen’s showing illustrates that every single Hurricanes player poses a threat with the ball and the Lions will do well to remember this come Saturday.

Verdict: Hurricanes 7/10
I really hope I'm proved wrong but I think the 'Canes will take this one. The visitors have peaked at just the right time while the Lions are seriously missing Warren Whiteley's leadership. It'll be a lot tighter than the scoreline when the two sides met in last year's final but my money is firmly on the Hurricanes making it back-to-back wins over the Pride of Joburg.

Written by Darry Worthington for

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