The Blues, in contrast, are among the worst. The Blues’ scrum success rate (57 percent) is certainly the worst in Super Rugby this season. Conversely, the Lions have a scrum success rate of 89 percent. However, the Lions have scored just five tries and let eight in, in four matches. They have relied heavily on the super boot of flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff, who has displaced Springbok Elton Jantjies for this week’s outing.
Boshoff has a goal-kicking strike rate of 95 percent, a Super Rugby high. After beating the Cheetahs and Stormers in the first two weeks, the Lions have come unstuck badly against the Bulls and Sharks. That, according to coach Johan Ackermann, is because they gave the opposition a head-start. “We had a very poor first half, but we were still in the game, down by just seven points, late in the match,” Ackermann told this website when asked about the reason by his team’s slump in form in the past fortnight.
“The positive is the fact that the guys never stopped playing. “However, we can’t afford to play that poorly in the first half and think we will win games – we have to make sure we have better starts. “The players have to realise that in Super Rugby, if you gift a team chances, like we did, they will punish you. “We will have to be a lot more accurate in everything we do.
“The guys learnt a tough lesson, but hopefully it will improve in the next few weeks.” The Blues, who solitary win against the Crusaders is sandwiched between two defeats, do have the ability to punish teams that are even just slightly off their game. They scored four scintillating tries in a 20-minute blitz on the way to a 35-24 win over the Crusaders.
And the Lions’ tackle success rate of 87 percent is pretty average by Super Rugby standards – which means the visitors could punish them if they are not on top of their fame. Blues coach John Kirwan said the focus this week had been on keeping it simple, and he was expecting a similar game to what the Bulls produced last week against the Lions. “The Lions play a similar type of game to the Bulls,” Kirwan said.
“We have to match their enthusiasm, we have to be patient with the ball, cut down our errors and take our points when they’re there. We can’t let them get away to a good start.”
Kirwan said it was important to head home to New Zealand with points from South Africa. “It’s not desperation time but if you want to be around at the end of the tournament then you’ve got to keep in touch with the leaderboard,” he said. “If we do that this week we’re totally in touch with the leaderboard and we’ve played four games with a 50 percent winning record heading home and South Africa out of the way with what would be seen as a pretty difficult start to the season so if we can come home from South Africa with some points we’ll be in pretty good shape.”
2012: Blues won 25-3, Auckland
2011: Blues won 41-32, Johannesburg
2010: Blues won 56-14, Johannesburg
2009: Blues won 36-12, Auckland
2008: Blues won 55-10, Johannesburg
2007: Blues won 41-14, Auckland
Lions: 15 Coenie van Wyk, 14 JW Jonker, 13 Deon van Rensburg, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Willie Britz, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Franco Mostert, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Luvuyiso Lusaseni, 20 Warwick Tecklenburg, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Ruan Combrinck.
Blues: 15 Benji Marshall, 14 Frank Halai, 13 George Moala, 12 Pita Ahki, 11 Charles Piutau, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Piri Weepu , 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Luke Braid (captain), 6 Brendon O’Connor, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Sam Prattley, 18, Angus Ta’avao, 19 Liaki Moli, 20 Jordan Manihera, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Simon Hickey, 23 Jackson Willison.
Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Christie du Preez (South Africa), Francois de Bruin (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)