Preview: Brumbies vs Lions – 12/05/2017

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The Brumbies will be determined to return to the victory trail when they take on a confident Lions side in Canberra on Friday.

Although Stephen Larkham’s side are sitting at the top of the Australian Conference table, they are the best of what has been a poor group of teams from that country as they have only won three out of nine matches so far this season.

The two-time champions enter this fixture on the back of three straight defeats, the last time they lost more in a row was a four-game stint in 2011 of which the fourth game was a 29-20 loss to the Lions.

By contrast, the Lions are on a high and despite being the away team for this encounter, the men from Johannesburg will fancy their chances of beating their hosts.

Last year’s tournament runners-up head into this clash in superb form after beating the Western Force and Melbourne Rebels in their two previous matches on their Australian tour.

Despite their poor form in 2017, the Brumbies have won three of their last four games against the Lions, though the last three iterations of this fixture have all been won by the away side on the day.

The Lions have won on each of their last four visits to Australia, as many wins as they had managed in all of their 17 prior visits.

The Brumbies have conceded a league-low 6.4 clean breaks per game this campaign despite making more tackles per game (127) than any other team.

Lions hooker Malcolm Marx, who starts this match on the replacements bench, has crossed for six tries so far this campaign, more than any other forward in the competition.

The Lions’ attacking style of play has seen them reaping the rewards in the competition’s attacking statistics. After 12 rounds of action, they have scored the third most tries (48), made the fourth most clean breaks (124), are second for defenders beaten (246) and third for metres gained (5057).

The Brumbies are amongst the also rans in those departments. They have scored just 25 tries which places them 14th overall in the competition, are in 16th place for clean breaks (76), 16th for defenders beaten (154) and dead last from the 18 teams for metres gained (3130).

The last time the teams met: The Brumbies delivered a clinical performance when these met in a Round 14 clash in Johannesburg in 2015 and eventually claimed a deserved 30-20 victory. The men from Canberra outscored their hosts by four tries to two with Tevita Kuridrani, Ita Vaea, Christian Leali’ifano and Joe Tomane all crossing the whitewash for the visitors. Jaco Kriel and Andries Coetzee scored the Lions’ tries.

Team news: Sales Sharks-bound Springbok scrum-half Faf de Klerk has been left out of the Lions squad for this fixture. Ross Cronjé again starts at number nine while a new front row in Corné Fourie, Robbie Coetzee and Johannes Jonker will get a start in place of Jacques van Rooyen, Malcolm Marx and Ruan Dreyer. At lock Andries Ferreira returns in the place of Lourens Erasmus while Cyle Brink is replaced by Ruan Ackermann. A decision on the cover at flank on the bench will be made later in the week with Robert Kruger bracketed with Cyle Brink. Justin Ackerman will be joining the squad in Australia to provide back-up for the injured Hencus van Wyk.

Brumbies head coach Stephen Larkham has made five changes to his starting line-up with Ben Alexander, Jarrad Butler, Jordan Smiler, Kyle Godwin and Aidan Toua all returning to the run-on side. Godwin makes a return from the hand injury suffered in the thrashing of the Reds at GIO Stadium and comes back into the side at inside centre, re-forming what was becoming a burgeoning partnership with Tevita Kuridrani. At full-back Toua is recalled into the number 15 shirt in place of Tom Banks, who steps down to the bench, one of three back options amongst the replacements alongside scrum-half De Wet Roos and utility back Jordan Jackson-Hope. There are a trio of changes up front with the experienced prop Alexander set to claim his 139th Brumbies cap as he closes in on the record held by George Smith, which stands at 142. A new-look back-row takes to the field on Friday with Smiler and Butler packing down alongside Scott Fardy.

Form: The Brumbies sit at the top of the Australian Conference table but have won just three matches so far this season. Those victories were registered against the Western Force, Waratahs and Reds so they will have extra motivation as they are yet to beat a side from outside Australia.

After beating the Cheetahs and Waratahs, the Lions suffered a defeat to the Jaguares in Round 3 but they have turned things around and are currently on a seven match winning streak after beating the Reds, Kings, Sharks, Stormers, Jaguares, Western Force and Rebels.

Previous results:

2015: Brumbies won 30-20 in Johannesburg
2012: Brumbies won 34-20 in Johannesburg
2011: Lions won 29-20 in Canberra
2010: Brumbies won 24-13 in Canberra
2009: Lions won 25-17 in Johannesburg
2008: Brumbies won 28-21 in Canberra
2007: Brumbies won 14-9 in Johannesburg
2006: Brumbies won 28-7 in Canberra

The teams:

Brumbies: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 James Dargaville, 10 Wharenui Hawera, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Jordan Smiler, 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter (c), 4 Rory Arnold, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Josh Mann-Rea, 1 Ben Alexander
Replacements: 16 Robbie Abel, 17 Nic Mayhew, 18 Leslie Leulua’iali’i-Makin, 19 Blake Enever, 20 Ben Hyne, 21 De Wet Roos, 22 Jordan Jackson-Hope, 23 Tom Banks

Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Sylvian Mahuza, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnal Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Francois Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Johannes Jonker, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Corné Fourie.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Robert Kruger/Cyle Brink, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Jacques Nel, 23 Anthony Volmink

Date: Friday, May 12
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
Kick-off: 19.45 local (09.45 GMT)
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant Referees: Nick Briant, Jordan Way
TMO: Ian Smith


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