The Lions face a stern examination when they take on the tournament’s most successful side, the Crusaders, in Johannesburg on Friday.
Under the guidance of head coach Johan Ackermann, the Lions have, once again, impressed in 2016 and will look to build on the fine start to their campaign in which they have won three of their four matches played so far.
The Crusaders have a similar record and will be aiming to finish off their tour to South Africa with back-to-back victories after they beat the Sharks last weekend.
That triumph in Durban was a significant one as it ended the Sharks’ unbeaten run in the competition and the seven-time champions will be brimming with confidence as they enter the Lions’ den.
Both these sides have impressed with ball in hand this season and it’s no surprise that they are amongst the leading teams in several of the tournament’s attacking statistics.
The Crusaders have scored the third most tries (16) while the Lions have just one less five-pointer. The men from Christchurch are also third highest for clean breaks (60) with the Lions in seventh place in that department with 43.
The Lions are third highest for metres gained (2118) while the Crusaders (1993) are in seventh position. Ackermann’s charges are also fourth highest for defenders beaten with 115 while the Crusaders are surprisingly low in that facet of play, languishing in 15th spot with just 72 defenders beaten.
Both are also amongst the frontrunners for offloads with the Crusaders second on 58 and the Lions fifth with 52.
But where the Crusaders have an advantage is in the scrum, where they are topping the charts with a 97 percent success rate compared to the Lions’ 84 percent.
The Crusaders are also the tournament’s most successful team at the rucks with a 96 percent success rate although the Lions are not far off in that category with 95 percent.
2015: Crusaders won 34-6 in Christchurch
2014: Crusaders won 28-7 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
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies/Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira/Lourens Erasmus, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylan Smith
Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Ruan Ackermann, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Jaco van der Walt, 23 Rohan Janse van Rensburg
Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Johnny McNicholl, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Andy Ellis, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Matt Todd, 6 Jimmy Tupou, 5 Scott Barrett, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Wyatt Crockett
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Joe Moody, 18 Mike Alaalatoa, 19 Sam Whitelock, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Ben Volavola, 23 Sean Wainui
Date: Friday, April 1
Venue: Emirates Airlines Park, Johannesburg
Kick-off: 19:00 local (17:00 GMT)
Referee: Stuart Berry
Assistant Referees: Craig Joubert, AJ Jacobs
TMO: Johan Greeff