Preview: Force v Lions – 29/04/2017

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The Lions will be looking to pile more misery on the Western Force when the sides clash at nib Stadium in Perth on Saturday.

The Force have really struggled this season along with their Australian counterparts. How things have changed since the last time the two teams met back in 2014 when the Force won 29-19.

Since the appointment of Johan Ackermann in 2014, the Lions have become an altogether different beast. He has transformed the Johannesburg-based side and introduced an exciting brand of rugby. They finished 12th in 2014 but then eighth in 2015 and were runners-up last year, a remarkable change in fortunes for the Ackermann’s side. Unfortunately, he is leaving the outfit next year to join Gloucester in England but the Lions faithful will forever be indebted to him as he has laid a solid platform for seasons to come.

The Force finished eighth in 2014 but since then it has been dark times for the Perth-based side, finishing 15th in 2015 and 16th last year. Long gone are the honeymoon years of 2007-2009 when they finished in the top-half under John Mitchell.

There are just not enough players coming through the ranks at youth level and making the step-up to Super Rugby. This seems to be a problem in Australian rugby in general.

In contrast, the Lions have an abundance of talented youngsters at their disposal such as Ruan Ackermann, Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Harold Vorster to name but a few.

Their only blemish came in an uncharacteristically tame performance against the Jaguares back on March 11. Since then they have produced good performances, the highlight being their dismantling of a previously unbeaten Stormers side.

In fairness, the fixture list has been kinder to the Lions as, unlike the Force, they have avoided the New Zealand teams thus far and one feels that will be when their true test comes. For now, it should be business as usual for the Lions.

The last time the teams met: The Force secured a 29-19 bonus-point win over the Lions in Perth. A brace from Matt Hodgson and further tries from Jayden Hayward and Chris Tuatara-Morrison dismantled the Lions. Elton Jantjies scored the visitors’ solitary try while Marnitz Boshoff kicked the rest of the points. The Lions were in control at 9-3 up after half an hour through three penalties from Marnitz Boshoff and would have been disappointed at the way they crumbled.

Team news: The Western Force have made a number of injury-forced changes to their side. Both Pek Cowan and Brynard Stander return to the starting side after impressive performances off the bench last week. Former Australian U20s representative Alex Newsome also returns to the starting XV, replacing the injured Luke Morahan (cheekbone). Curtis Rona slips back into the familiar outside centre jersey as Marcel Brache moves to fullback, replacing Wallaby Dane Haylett-Petty (hamstring). James Verity-Amm is set to make his Super Rugby debut on the right wing, becoming the sixth Force debutant in club history and the third this season. In the reserves, Richard Hardwick and Jono Lance will look to bring plenty of tempo when called upon and former Springbok Peter Grant is set to make his first appearance of the season from the bench.

Lions head coach Johan Ackermann has made six changes to his run-on side. Kwagga Smith starts on the openside flank in place of the injured Jaco Kriel while Sylvian Mahuza dons the number 14 jersey in the place of Madosh Tambwe, who is with the South Africa U20 squad.Meanwhile, Faf de Klerk takes over from Ross Cronje at scrum-half and there is a new front row with Ruan Dreyer, Malcolm Marx and Jacques van Rooyen taking over from Johannes Jonker, Armand van der Merwe and Corne Fourie respectively. Loose forward Cyle Brink and winger Anthony Volmink come onto the replacements bench.

Form: The Force have won two of their seven matches this season against the Kings and the Reds while losing to the Waraths, Brumbries, Crusaders, Blues and Chiefs.

Meanwhile, the Lions have been a different animal this season winning seven of their eight games, beating the Cheetahs, Waratahs, Reds, Kings, Sharks, Stormers and Jaguares. Their solitary loss came against the Jaguares in Round three and since then they have won five on the trot.

Previous results:

2014: Force won 29-19 in Perth
2012: Force won 17-11 in Perth
2011: Force won 27-15 in Johannesburg
2010: Force won 33-12 in Johannesburg
2009: Force won 55-14 in Perth
2008: Force won 18-16 in Johannesburg
2007: Lions won 25-24 in Perth

The teams:

Force: 15 Marcel Brache, 14 James Verity-Amm, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Bill Meakes, 11 Alex Newsome, 10 Luke Burton, 9 Ian Prior, 8 Isi Naisarani, 7 Matt Hodgson (C), 6 Brynard Stander, 5 Ross Haylett-Petty, 4 Lewis Carmichael, 3 Tetera Faulkner, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Pek Cowan
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Ben Daley, 18 Shambeckler Vui, 19 Onehunga Havilli, 20 Richard Hardwick, 21 Mitch Short, 22 Jono Lance, 23 Peter Grant

Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Sylvian Mahuza, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (C), 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques Van Rooyen
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Cyle Brink, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Jacques Nel, 23 Anthonie Volmink

Date: Saturday, April 29
Venue: nib Stadium, Perth
Kick-Off: 21:55 local (11:55 GMT)
Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Jamie Nutbrown (New Zealand), Amy Perrett (Australia)
TMO: Damien Mitchelmore (Austrailia)


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