Lions’ lead in the SA conference coming under increasing threat
The Lions’ lead in the South African conference is coming under increasing threat and they will have to fly in the face of history to stop the trend this weekend.
The Jaguares‚ thanks to four consecutive wins in Australasia‚ have crept up on Swys de Bruin’s team who still head their conference by a seven-point margin.
The Lions‚ however‚ face a more taxing final stretch in the league stages.
The Lions need to win away at the Highlanders this weekend to stretch their buffer to the blood smelling Jaguares who have a bye this week.
The Lions‚ however‚ have won only once in Dunedin and that was by a hard fought 26-22 scoreline in 2011.
The size of their task becomes even greater when you consider the Highlanders have suffered only two defeats to South African opposition at home in the last five seasons.
The Sharks beat them in Dunedin in 2016‚ while the Cheetahs triumphed in Invercargill in 2013.
Historically‚ however‚ the Highlanders and the Lions are closely matched with only one of their last 13 matches against each other producing a winner by 12 points or more.
What the Lions have in their favour this week‚ however‚ is the fact that they will be waiting for the hosts on their home patch for the initial part of the week.
The Highlanders would have boarded four flights to get home from Durban and they are likely to feel the effects for the bulk of the week.
They will however be desperate to bounce back from their defeat to the Sharks last weekend.
It wasn’t so much the defeat as the manner in which it came that rankled with coach Aaron Mauger.
He lamented the fact that his team’s energy levels were down and that they could not match the Sharks’ physicality.
The Sharks bossed the collisions and the Highlanders as a result‚ made far too many errors.
The Highlanders are likely to be without rising midfielder Rob Thompson who suffered a head clash against the Sharks‚ while the Lions will definitely be without the considerable presence of hooker Malcolm Marx.