Super Rugby semi-finals confirmed

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After the completion of the four quarter-finals the composition of the Super Rugby semi-finals has been confirmed.
The highest seeded team the Hurricanes will play the lowest seeded team the Chiefs in one semi-final, while the second highest seeded team the Lions will play the second lowest seed the Highlanders in the second semi-final.
The top seeded team going into the quarter-finals were the Hurricanes and their comprehensive 41-0 win over the Sharks in Wellington means they will host a semi-final as the highest seeded team.
The Hurricanes will play the Chiefs who beat the higher ranked Stormers 60-21 in Cape Town.The second semi-final will be hosted by the Lions who were too strong at home in Johannesburg beating the Crusaders 45-25.The Lions will play the Highlanders who beat the Brumbies in Canberra 15-9.

Super Rugby semi-finals
Saturday, July 30

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Hurricanes v Chiefs
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Kick-off: 19:35 local (07:35 GMT)

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Lions v Highlanders
Venue: Ellis Park, Johannesburg
Kick-off: TBC


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Super Rugby Result – Quarter Final #4 – Stormers 21 vs 60 Chiefs

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21 vs 60

The Chiefs will face the Hurricanes in the Super Rugby semi-finals after crushing the Stormers 60-21 at Newlands on Saturday.

The visitors delivered a masterclass of attacking rugby and outscored the Stormers by eight tries to three with four of the five-pointers scored during an impressive first half.

The  two-time champions dominated most facets of play and the Stormers were blown away by the pace and intensity with which their opponents executed their moves.

The result means that three out of the four teams in the semi-finals are New Zealand teams – after the Highlanders and Hurricanes won their quarter-finals – with the Johannesburg-based Lions filling the final play-off spot.

Dave Rennie’s charges will now go to Wellington to take on the top-seeded Hurricanes in their semi-final with the Highlanders making the long trek to South Africa to take on the Lions.

The Chiefs made the early attacking and opened the scoring via a Damian McKenzie penalty, after Pieter-Steph du Toit was penalised for a ruck infringement.

Nathan Harris failed to find his jumper at a line-out and the hosts made full use of the turnover when, after Du Toit and Schalk Burger set up a couple of phases, Vincent Koch burst through a tackle before crashing over for the opening try.

Robert du Preez added the extras but three minutes later Sam McNicol silenced the home crowd when he stepped past Jaco Taute before diving over, after brilliant handling from James Lowe and Damian McKenzie put him in the clear down thec right-hand touchline.

It didn’t take long for the visitors to cross for their second five-pointer, Brad Weber rounding off under the posts after gathering an inside pass from James Lowe which meant the Chiefs were leading 17-7 after 15 minutes.

Things went from bad to worse for the home side in the 24th minute when Aaron Cruden charged down an attempted clearance from Jaco Taute. Huw Jones tried to gather, behind his tryline, but only managed to knock on and Tom Sanders only had to dive onto the ball for an easy five-pointer.

McKenzie kept the scoreboard ticking when he landed a three-pointer from the kicking tee after Rynardt Elstadt, who came on shortly after the restart for the injured Siya Kolisi, was penalised for dangerous tackling.

Five minutes before half-time, the men from Hamilton had their fourth try when Lowe caught the defence napping with a grubber kick which bounced teasingly behind the Stormers’ try-line and he won his footrace with Kobus van Wyk before dotting down.

To their credit, the home side didn’t surrender and two minutes before the break Koch showed great tenacity and leg drive to barge over for his, and his side’s, second try.

That try gave the home side a glimmer of hope but they still had a mountain to climb as the Chiefs went in to the sheds with a commanding 34-14 lead.

That hope soon disappeared as five minutes after the restart the Chiefs caught them by surprise on their own ball at a scrum inside their 22. Anton Liener-Brown soon glided through a gap in the Stormers defence and passed to Sam McNicol who offloaded to McKenzie who got over for the Chiefs’ fifth try.

The Stormers tried gallantly to figth back and although they had lots of possession, poor decision-making – especially from Du Preez and Nic Groom – and a plethora of handling errors meant the next 20 minutes was a war of attrition as the Chiefs’ defence kept them at bay.

The home side had to wait until the 72nd minute for their third try – Nizaam Carr crossing after spotting a rare hole in the visitors’ defence but despite that effort the Chiefs were far from finished and sealed their win in style with late tries from Hika Elliot, Tevita Koloamatangi and Tawera Kerr-Barlow.

The scorers:

For Stormers:
Tries: Koch 2, Carr
Cons: Du Preez, Thomson

For Chiefs:
Tries: McNicol, Weber, Sanders, Lowe, McKenzie, Elliot, Koloamatangi, Kerr-Barlow
Cons: McKenzie 7
Pens: McKenzie 2

The Teams:

Stormers: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Schalk Burger (cc), 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Ezebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Alistair Vermaak
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Frans Malherbe (cc), 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Nizaam Carr, 22 Louis Schreuder, 23 Brandon Thomson

Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Sam McNicol, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Stephen Donald, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (cc), 9 Brad Weber, 8 Tom Sanders, 7 Sam Cane (cc), 6 Taleni Seu, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Atu Moli, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Kane Hames
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, 18 Mitchell Graham, 19 Tevita Koloamatangi, 20 Lachlan Boshier, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Toni Pulu, 23 Shaun Stevenson

Date: Saturday, July 23
Venue: DHL Newlands
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant Referees: Jaco van Heerden, AJ Jacobs
TMO: Johan Greeff


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Super Rugby Result – Quarter Final #3 – Lions 42 v 25 Crusaders

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42 v 25

The Lions booked their place in the Super Rugby semi-finals on Saturday after they saw off the Crusaders, winning 42-25 in Johannesburg.

Prevailing by six tries to three they were deserved victors in the last-eight meeting, as they now wait to see if they will face the Stormers or the Highlanders.

Courtnall Skosan, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Malcolm Marx, Ruan Combrinck and Ross Cronje scored the five-pointers while in reply the Crusaders’ try-scorers were Ryan Crotty, Mitchell Drummond and Ben Volavola.

The Lions enjoyed much the better of the first-half and went in 22-10 in front thanks to tries from Skosan, Janse van Rensburg and Marx.

They came out firing, no doubt the team was fresh from their week off, and hit the ground running on two minutes when Skosan broke from halfway to beat Crusaders full-back Israel Dagg to the left corner. Elton Jantjies was off-target with his conversion so it remained 5-0.

Sensing an early chance to grab a stranglehold of matters the Lions went for broke on six minutes as they kicked for the corner. And it paid off as, with Crusaders lock Luke Romano, having just been sent to the sin-bin for swimming up the maul, Janse van Rensburg scored.

At 12-0 the Lions were cruising and things got even better on 15 minutes when Kieran Read was penalised at a ruck. That made it 15-0.

But, with Romano now back on the field, the Crusaders crucially managed to get a foothold in the match and put themselves on the scoreboard soon after, as Lions lock Andries Ferreira failed to roll away quickly enough. Richie Mo’unga did the rest from in front for 15-3.

Johnny McNicholl was being used to great effect at this point and after sustained pressure, finally it told after 33 minutes when Crotty dotted the ball onto the base of a post to score. Mo’unga had an easy job of making it 15-10 and it looked like the visitors were on top.

This though is a different Lions side to years gone by and at the perfect time they struck back, Marx going over from a driving lineout right on the hooter to make it 22-10 with a superb Jantjies conversion. In truth it was a cushion the Johannesburg side richly deserved.

After the interval that soon became 22-13 as the Crusaders started the brighter with a penalty, with Drummond on in place of veteran Andy Ellis at scrum-half in an attempt to change their fortunes in the contest.

Still two scores in front, the period approaching the hour mark was going to be a big test for the Lions and they managed it well. In fact they moved back into a 12-point lead when Jantjies slotted a drop-goal on 53 minutes while Craig Joubert was playing a penalty advantage.

A two-score lead became three on 62 minutes as David Havili was penalised for not rolling away and Jantjies did the rest, with the away side now needing something out of the top drawer in the last 18 minutes to keep their Super Rugby season alive for another week.

It didn’t take long for them to respond as seconds after Jantjies’ penalty Mo’unga set up Drummond for a run-in under the posts off a high kick. That made it 28-20 with the conversion and it was game on in Johannesburg, with the Lions crucially still having a slight buffer.

But with 11 minutes remaining the Lions put one foot into the semi-finals when Lionel Mapoe broke from his 22 to halfway before Combrinck switched and raced to the posts. That made it 35-20 in a tough blow to the visitors, who were surely heading out of the competition.

Each team scored a try apiece before the end as the floodgates opened following a long season as first replacement scrum-half Cronje went over after collecting a kick ahead by Mapoe and then another substitute, Volavola, finished off a consolation score for the Crusaders.

The Lions then march on to the last four as Johan Ackermann’s selection decision of last week is now surely laid to rest, with another home game coming up for them in the semi-finals. In this form they will be tough to beat.

The scorers:

For Lions:
Tries: Skosan, Janse van Rensburg, Marx, Combrinck, Cronje
Cons: Jantjies 4
Pens: Jantjies 2
Drop Goal: Jantjies

For Crusaders:
Tries: Crotty, Drummond, Volavola
Cons: Mo’unga 2
Pens: Mo’unga 2
Yellow Card: Romano

The teams:

Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Rohan Janse Van Rensburg, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylon Smith
Replacements: 16 Armand Van Der Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Jacques Van Rooyen, 19 Ruan Ackermann, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Jaco Van Der Walt/Sylvian Mahuza

Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 David Havili, 11 Jone Macilai, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read(c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Wyatt Crockett
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Mike Alaalatoa, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Jimmy Tupou, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Ben Volavola, 23 Kieron Fonotia

Date: Saturday, July 23
Venue: Emirates Airlines Park, Johannesburg
Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistant Referees: Marius van der Westhuizen, Rasta Rasivhenge
TMO: Marius Jonke


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Super Rugby Result – Quarter Final #2 – Hurricanes 41 v 00 Sharks

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41 vs 00

The Hurricanes win their first EVER game in Super Rugby without conceding a point and the first time a team has won a playoff match without conceding a point.

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The Hurricanes secured a home semi-final in Super Rugby after they outclassed the Sharks, winning 41-0 in a clinical result in Wellington.

It was a superb performance in the wind and rain but in truth the Sharks were incredibly disappointing as they crash out of the competition.

Tries from Loni Uhila, James Marshall, Jason Woodward, Vaea Fifita, TJ Perenara and Brad Shields secured the result as the hosts were brilliant, becoming the first Super Rugby team to nil an opponent in the knockout stages.

However, there was one blemish on this victory for the ‘Canes as captain Dane Coles suffered a rib injury that will concern their supporters.

In atrocious weather conditions it was clear who mastered the wind and rain the better, with the Hurricanes moving into the break 13-0 up.

Barrett was excellent as he mixed his kicking to perfection while in contrast Garth April had a horror none from three record off the tee.

It could have been different for the visitors as they had two penalties inside 10 minutes that April missed, with the wind having its say.

Barrett made no such mistake from bang in front on 13 minutes as against the run of play the Hurricanes led 3-0. The gap soon grew.

The All Black fly-half took control of the match from then on and his cross-kick out to wing Woodward led to Matt Proctor being brought to ground just one metre out. From the resulting breakdown, loosehead prop Uhila crashed over the line thanks to a fine angle to make it 8-0.

The Hurricanes had their tails up and Barrett was maneuvering them superbly well, with a scrum inside the Sharks 22 resulting in their next try as Perenara went blind, sucking in Lwazi Mvovo to allow full-back Marshall a clear run-in to the line on the right wing. That was 13-0.

Just to add salt into Sharks’ wounds the last scoring chance in the half saw April miss again, as it was clear who was on top at the break.

It was the Hurricanes who were hurting though two minutes into the second-half when their captain Coles left the field clutching his ribs.

But that pain was shortlived as an injection of pace from Perenara down the left sideline led to him handing a wonderful pull-back pass to Woodward who slid over. With Barrett drilling over the conversion low, suddenly the cushion was up to 20 points with 32 minutes remaining.

If the contest wasn’t over at that point it most definitely was two minutes later and Perenara was the catalyst again, starting an attack on halfway before lock Fifita brushed off the tackle of April before striding over on the left side. Barrett added the two that made it a 27-0 gap.

Perenara turned from provider to scorer on 59 minutes when from Uhila’s quick tap five metres out, the scrum-half spotted some non-existent fringe defence and dived over for a deserved try. Barrett, this time from a simpler angle, sent over the extras and it was becoming a rout.

Such was the manner and margin of the advantage Hurricanes head coach Chris Boyd then replaced Perenara, Barrett and Ardie Savea.

But still the Sharks couldn’t trouble the scorers, with the hosts fittingly having the final say when Shields slid over to seal an outstanding victory.

HURRICANES – 41
Tries: Loni Uhila (16),James Marshall (20), Jason Woodward (46),Vaea Fifita (49), TJ Perenara (58), Brad Shields (80)
Penalties: Beauden Barrett (13)
Cons: Beauden Barrett (47,50,59), Jason Woodward (80)

SHARKS – 00


The Teams:

Hurricanes: 15 James Marshall, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Jason Woodward, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Ardie Savea, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Michael Fatialofa, 4 Vaea Fifita, 3 Ben May, 2 Dane Coles (c), 1 Loni Uhila
Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Mike Kainga, 19 Mark Abbott, 20 Callum Gibbins, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Vince Aso, 23 Julian Savea

Sharks: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Garth April, 9 Michael Claasens, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Jean-luc du Preez, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Stefan Lewies, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Tera Mtembu, 21 Stefan Ungerer, 22 Curwin Bosch, 23 Odwa Ndungane

Date: Saturday, July 23
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Referee: Glen Jackson
Assistant Referees: Nick Briant, Paul Williams
TMO: Glenn Newman


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Super Rugby Result – Quarter Final #1 – Brumbies 09 vs 15 Highlanders

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09 vs 15

The Highlanders booked their place in the Super Rugby semi-finals after they held out the Brumbies to prevail 15-9 in Canberra on Friday.

In the end, this result went the way most would have expected, but the Highlanders were far from convincing in a clash where their discipline and execution let them down.

A dramatic finish to the match saw the Brumbies camp in the Highlanders’ 22 for virtually the entire final 10 minutes, during which time a potentially match-winning try was ruled out by the TMO. But the Brumbies’ impotent attack ultimately failed to break down the visitors’ outstanding defence.

In the end, the Landers managed to score two tries to none, and held onto a lead throughout the second half as they got the job done in difficult wet weather conditions that played a considerable part in seeing the game degenerate into trench warfare.

The Brumbies were let down by a malfunctioning lineout, while they simply offered no threat on attack, with the Highlanders enjoying the better of territory and possession throughout the match, and very rarely did their tryline come under threat until the final 10 minutes.

With rainy and windy conditions in Canberra, the scene was always set for a closely contested affair, but it must be said that errors and ill-discipline from both sides certainly didn’t contribute much quality to an unappealing opening half.

Just three points separated the sides heading into the latter stages of the first stanza, with Christian Leali’ifano slotting two penalties to the one from opposite number Lima Sopoaga.

However, the Highlanders struck a telling blow just before the break when Waisake Naholo was put away to score in the corner after an extended period of pressure, while to make matters worse for the hosts, Matt Toomua was shown a yellow card after repeated team infringements.

It handed the Highlanders the ascendancy heading into half-time, but the visitors would have been frustrated by a first half performance that saw them concede eight penalties – three of them at scrum time – and commit seven handling errors.

Yet, while the Brumbies managed to gain the upper hand at scrum time, they lost three lineouts, which often gifted possession back to the Highlanders.

As it was, the Highlanders enjoyed 68% of possession and 78% of territory in the first half, but the fact they enjoyed just a four-point lead at the break proved to be an indication of just how their execution with ball in hand was uncharacteristically off colour.

The Landers would have also been frustrated by their inability to score any points while playing at a one-man advantage, with Leali’ifano and Sopoaga both missing penalty kicks early in the second half before the return of Toomua.

Leali’ifano did manage to cut the deficit back to a solitary point when he slotted a 52nd minute penalty, while Sopoaga missed another relatively simple shot at goal soon after as the Highlanders were left to hang onto a tenuous 10-9 lead.

An error-strewn encounter was crying out for some excitement, and it arrived just before the hour mark when Sopoaga snapped up an intercept on the halfway line, and sent Matt Fades charging away. The ball was recycled and Liam Squire ultimately went over to score a simple try that stretched the lead to six points.

In another decisive moment soon after, the Brumbies turned down a shot at goal in order to set up an attacking lineout in the red zone, but their malfunctioning lineout once again proved problematic as the Highlanders stole the ball and exited out of their 22.

From there the Highlanders would have just wanted to close out the game, but the Brumbies turned to their scrum in a late onslaught that saw replacement Lausii Taliauli squirm over the tryline in the 74th minute, but the TMO was unable to see a clear and obvious grounding.

Three scrum resets followed, but the Brumbies were unable to use this platform to create a successful opportunity to snatch what would have been an undeserved victory.

The scorers:

For Brumbies:
Pen: Leali’ifano 3
Yellow card: Toomua (offside – 37 min)

For Highlanders:
Tries: Naholo, Squire
Con: Sopoaga
Pen: Sopoaga

The teams:

Brumbies: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Nigel Ah Wong, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Robbie Coleman, 10 Christian Lealiifano (cc), 9 Tomás Cubelli, 8 Jarrad Butler, 7 David Pocock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Blake Enever, 3 Ruan Smith, 2 Stephen Moore (cc), 1 Scott Sio
Replacements (one to be omitted): 16 Josh Mann-Rea, 17 Allan Alaalatoa, 18 Leslie Leulua’iali’i-Makin, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Michael Wells, 21 Joe Powell, 22 Andrew Smith, 23 James Dargaville, 24 Lausii Taliauli
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (cc), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Matt Faddes, 12 Malakai Fekitoa, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Liam Squire, 7 Shane Christie (cc), 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Luke Whitelock, 4 Tom Franklin, 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Siosiua Halanukonuka, 19 Mark Reddish, 20 Dan Pryor, 21 Te Aihe Toma, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Rob Thompson

Date: Friday, July 22
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
Referee: Angus Gardner
Assistant Referees: Ben O’Keeffe, Nic Berry
TMO: George Ayoub


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Super Rugby Preview – Quarter Final #4 – Stormers vs Chiefs

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Fly-half Robert du Preez will make his return for the Stormers in their Super Rugby quarter-final with the Chiefs at Newlands on Saturday.

After starting the first two games of the season, Du Preez injured his knee against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein in Round Two and comes into the starting XV for Jean-Luc du Plessis who was injured in the victory against the Kings.

There is one other change to the backline as scrum-half Nic Groom returns after being rested against the Southern Kings last week, with Louis Schreuder and Brandon Thomson providing backline cover on the replacements bench.

In the front-row Bongi Mbonambi starts at hooker with Scarra Ntubeni moving to the replacements bench where he will be joined by prop forwards Oli Kebble and co-captain Frans Malherbe who are both returning from injury.

Locks Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit return after sitting out last week, whilst the only change to the loose trio sees Siya Kolisi return to the XV, with Rynhardt Elstadt and a fit-again Nizaam Carr on the bench.

Stormers head coach Robbie Fleck said that having so many players return before the play-offs has been a timely boost.

“It is great to have these players back in the mix for what is obviously a very important match,” he said.

“The team is intent on going out there and embracing the occasion of playing a Vodacom Super Rugby quarter-final at DHL Newlands,” he said.

The Chiefs have named their side that will face the Stormers at Newlands on Saturday, with Stephen Donald starting at inside centre.

Due to an injury to Seta Tamanivalu, Donald comes in at number 12 and joins Anton Lienert-Brown in the midfield for the win-or-bust clash.

Elsewhere in the backs, Sam McNicol is preferred ahead of Toni Pulu on the right wing while Brad Weber is back as the starting scrum-half.

Kane Hames, Nathan Harris and Atu Moli form the front-row while Dominic Bird and Brodie Retallick will continue their solid lock partnership.

With Liam Messam injured, Tom Sanders shifts over to number eight and is joined in the back row by Taleni Seu and co-captain Sam Cane.

The Teams:

Stormers: 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Leolin Zas, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Schalk Burger (cc), 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Ezebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Alistair Vermaak
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Oli Kebble, 18 Frans Malherbe (cc), 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Nizaam Carr, 22 Louis Schreuder, 23 Brandon Thomson

Chiefs: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Sam McNicol, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Stephen Donald, 11 James Lowe, 10 Aaron Cruden (cc), 9 Brad Weber, 8 Tom Sanders, 7 Sam Cane (cc), 6 Taleni Seu, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Dominic Bird, 3 Atu Moli, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Kane Hames
Replacements: 16 Hika Elliot, 17 Siegfried Fisi’ihoi, 18 Mitchell Graham, 19 Tevita Koloamatangi, 20 Lachlan Boshier, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Toni Pulu, 23 Shaun Stevenson

Date: Saturday, July 23
Venue: DHL Newlands
Kick-off: 19:00 local (17:00 GMT)
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant Referees: Jaco van Heerden, AJ Jacobs
TMO: Johan Greeff


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Super Rugby Preview – Quarter Final #3 – Lions vs Crusaders

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The Lions will need to be at their best to beat the Crusaders in their Super Rugby quarter-final in Johannesburg this Saturday.

The knockout showdown comes after Lions head coach Johan Ackermann’s seemingly crazy decision to rest his best players against the Jaguares last weekend, which ended in a 34-22 loss for the former table-toppers.

Consequently, instead of the Lions facing the Sharks, who they have beaten twice this season, they now have to weather the Crusaders, who no one needs reminding of their potency in the finals stage of Super Rugby.

A nasty backlash is probably bubbling under in the Crusaders camp after their heavy loss against the Hurricanes at home last week. The Crusaders fell 35-10 at home and conceded five tries as they were obliterated by a strategically astute Hurricanes side. The Lions won’t underestimate the Christchurch men this weekend and would be wise not to.

Crusaders head Todd Blackadder believes that despite last week’s negative scoreboard, there were positives to their defensive performance.

“There’s still a lot of upside to our D … Last week we just weren’t aggressive going forward – while we were making our tackles, we were making them on the gain-line or on the back foot. And then we were giving the ball straight back to them. We will be smarter than that this week,” Blackadder told Stuff.

But it is the Crusaders’ attack that makes them such a dangerous side. They rank first in clean breaks this season, offloads and passes. And all of that isn’t just for show as they have scored the third most tries in the competition with 64.

Sam Whitelock says they expect the Lions to swing the ball wide and as they have done all season, and will have to keep that in mind.

“Every New Zealand side knows that when they are over here the Lions are going to attack‚ use the ball and probably play a bit more expansive than they would have done traditionally‚” the Crusaders lock told TimesLive.

“We just need to be aware of that and ensure that we cover the whole field.”

Whitelock would be right to be mindful of the Pride of Jozi’s attack. The Lions have scored the most tries in the competition with 71, have scored the most points with 535 and they are also first in run metres and defenders beaten.

The Lions’ expansive game plan isn’t usually utilised in this section of the tournament but as assistant coach Swys de Bruin told IOL, they will be sticking to their guns this weekend as they’ve proven they can win against New Zealand sides.

“There’s no reason to change anything,” said De Bruin.

“Yes, we lost to the Crusaders the last time we played against them, and also against the Hurricanes… those two matches without a doubt being our two worst performances of the year. But, we also beat the Chiefs away and won against the Blues. We’ve shown we can play against New Zealand teams and win… so it doesn’t really matter that we’re up against the Crusaders.

“The Crusaders caught us with something like a blitzkrieg when we played them the last time,” De Bruin admitted.

“They’re an experienced outfit, they’ve been in play-offs before and know what’s in store and what’s needed to get past this stage of the competition.”

The last time the teams met: The Crusaders and Lions treated the crowd to a ten try-thriller when the visitors defeated the Lions 43-37 Johannesburg. Ryan Crotty scored a hat-trick, while Lions hooker Akker van der Merwe scored a brace for his side. The game was a roller-coaster ride from start to finish as Crotty got his first try of the match in the opening minute of the game, the Lions then responded three minutes later through Lionel Mapoe. The two teams were neck and neck at half-time as the first-half ended 22-20 to the visitors. Until the 71st minute it looked like the Crusaders had run away with it until Van der Merwe crossed for his second try of the game to close the gap on the men from Christchurch. But it wasn’t enough and the visitors won by six points.

Team news: Johan Ackermann made 15 changes to their side. Warren Whiteley looks set to start at number eight this weekend and regains the captaincy. The rest of the loose trio will consist of Warwick Tecklenburg at seven and Jaco Kriel at six. In the second-row Franco Mostert and Andries Ferreira retake the four and five jerseys while Julian Redelinghuys, Malcolm Marx and Dylon Smith return as the front-row. Andries Coetzee, Ruan Combrinck and Courtnall Skosan return as the back three with Lionel Mapoe and Rohan Janse Van Rensburg taking back their centre pair spots, with Howard Mnisi providing cover from the bench. The Springbok pairing of Elton Jantjies and Faf De Klerk are the half-backs.

The Crusaders coaching staff have made four changes for their quarter-final clash. All Black scrum-half Andy Ellis comes back into the side after suffering to a calf injury before last weekend’s game. Jone Macilai replacin Nemani Nadolo in the 11 jersey is the only other change to the backline. In the forwards, Sam Whitelock comes back into the team after being sick last week and will take Scott Barrett’s place at lock, with Barrett dropping to the bench. Flanker Jordan Taufua will take over the six jersey from Jimmy Tupou who will provide loose forward cover.

Previous results:

2016: Crusaders won 43-37 in Johannesburg
2015: Crusaders won 34-06 in Christchurch
2014: Crusaders won 28-07 in Johannesburg
2012: Crusaders won 23-13 in Johannesburg
2010: Crusaders won 46-19 in Christchurch
2009: Crusaders won 32-20 in Johannesburg
2008: Crusaders won 31-6 in Christchurch

The teams:

Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Rohan Janse Van Rensburg, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylon Smith
Replacements: 16 Armand Van Der Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Jacques Van Rooyen, 19 Ruan Ackermann, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Jaco Van Der Walt/Sylvian Mahuza

Crusaders: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 David Havili, 11 Jone Macilai, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read(c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jordan Taufua, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Wyatt Crockett
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Mike Alaalatoa, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Jimmy Tupou, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Ben Volavola, 23 Kieron Fonotia

Date: Saturday, July 23
Venue: Emirates Airlines Park, Johannesburg
Kick Off: 16:30 local (14:30 GMT)
Referee: Craig Joubert
Assistant Referees: Marius van der Westhuizen, Rasta Rasivhenge
TMO: Marius Jonke


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