The Lions can beat the Waratahs‚ but can they be trusted?
This time last week‚ there were eight Super Rugby combatants and now only four remain as the competition finally reaches the home straight.
For the second year running‚ Christchurch and Johannesburg will be the distinguished semifinal hosts with the latter city hosting its third consecutive Super Rugby semifinal.
The Lions beating the Waratahs is not quite cut and dried while the clash between the Crusaders and the Hurricanes is the mother of all New Zealand derbies.
Crusaders v Hurricanes – AMI Stadium‚ Christchurch - 9.35am
Ordinarily‚ these teams should have been hosting the Lions and the Waratahs but with the way Super Rugby is set up‚ that’s not the case.
However‚ Super Rugby is what it is and the best New Zealand rugby has to offer could provide the final before the final. The well-drilled teams coached by Scott Robertson (Crusaders) and the departing Chris Boyd (Hurricanes) collected more points than the Lions and Waratahs and showcased the best that New Zealand have to offer.
The Hurricanes are one of only two teams who have beaten the Crusaders this season (29-19 in Wellington on March 10) but the Crusaders haven't lost a home game in two seasons. The Hurricanes also beat the Crusaders at home last year but winning in Christchurch has been beyond them.
The last time they won there (35-10 in 2016) was when they went on to win their first and currently only title when they beat the Lions at home. The omens are good for them in that regard but the Crusaders under Robertson are a totally different fighting force.
A surprise win here for the Hurricanes will mean that they will need the Waratahs to beat the Lions for them to host the final. The defending champions though are a difficult side to beat‚ let alone keep up with. It is also worth remembering that the Crusaders haven't lost a playoff game at home since 1998. That’s 19/19.
Crusaders: 15 David Havili‚ 14 Seta Tamanivalu‚ 13 Jack Goodhue‚ 12 Ryan Crotty‚ 11 George Bridge‚ 10 Richie Mo’unga‚ 9 Bryn Hall‚ 8 Kieran Read‚ 7 Matt Todd‚ 6 Jordan Taufua‚ 5 Samuel Whitelock (captain)‚ 4 Scott Barrett‚ 3 Owen Franks‚ 2 Codie Taylor‚ 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Makalio‚ 17 Tim Perry‚ 18 Michael Alaalatoa‚ 19 Luke Romano‚ 20 Pete Samu‚ 21 Mitchell Drummond‚ 22 Mitchell Hunt‚ 23 Braydon Ennor.
Hurricanes: 15 Nehe Milner-Skudder‚ 14 Julian Savea‚ 13 Jordie Barrett‚ 12 Ngani Laumape‚ 11 Ben Lam‚ 10 Beauden Barrett‚ 9 Thomas Perenara‚ 8 Blade Thomson‚ 7 Gareth Evans‚ 6 Brad Shields (captain)‚ 5 Sam Lousi‚ 4 Michael Fatialofa‚ 3 Jeff To’omaga-Allen‚ 2 Ricky Riccitelli‚ 1 Toby Smith.
Replacements: 16 James O’Reilly‚ 17 Chris Eves‚ 18 Ben May‚ 19 Vaea Fifita‚ 20 Ardie Savea/Reed Prinsep‚ 21 Jamie Booth‚ 22 Ihaia West‚ 23 Wes Goosen.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)‚ Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
TMO: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)
Lions v Waratahs - Ellis Park‚ Johannesburg – 3.05pm
The Lions are in form and that can't be disputed but the Waratahs seemingly have a knack of winning matches they have no business doing so and vice-versa.
They soiled an opportunity of a home semi-final when they lost at home to the Brumbies in the final round of league fixtures but turned around a deficit last week to beat the Highlanders. Which shade of the Waratahs will rock up at Ellis Park is not quite known but clearly‚ they're a dangerous outfit.
They're also not the best of Highveld travellers recently but the Lions once threw away a game against the Blues.
The Lions can play a bit but they can't be trusted. The one thing Swys de Bruin's side does have against the Waratahs is a win this season and a comprehensive one at that in Sydney (29-0).
The Waratahs did most of the playing in that game and the Lions did all of the scoring. The Waratahs couldn't live with the Lions' physicality and the Lions should keep it simple and stick to their strengths.
Most importantly‚ the Lions just need to keep a clear head and ensure they seal a date with the New Zealand side they'll have to face in the final.
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee‚ 14 Ruan Combrink‚ 13 Lionel Mapoe‚ 12 Harold Vorster‚ 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi‚ 10 Elton Jantjies‚ 9 Ross Cronje‚ 8 Warren Whiteley (captain)‚ 7 Lourens Erasmus‚ 6 Albertus Smith‚ 5 Franco Mostert‚ 4 Marvin Orie‚ 3 Ruan Dreyer‚ 2 Malcolm Marx‚ 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Corne Fourie‚ 17 Dylan Smith‚ 18 Johannes Jonker‚ 19 Hacjivah Dayimani‚ 20 Marnus Schoeman‚ 21 Dillon Smit‚ 22 Courtnall Skosan‚ 23 Howard Mnisi.
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau‚ 14 Alex Newsome‚ 13 Curtis Rona‚ 12 Kurtley Beale‚ 11 Taqele Naiyaravoro‚ 10 Bernard Foley (captain)‚ 9 Nick Phipps‚ 8 Michael Wells‚ 7 Will Miller‚ 6 Ned Hanigan‚ 5 Rob Simmons‚ 4 Jed Holloway‚ 3 Sekope Kepu‚ 2 Tolu Latu‚ 1 Tom Robertson.
Replacements: 16 Damien Fitzpatrick‚ 17 Harry Johnson-Holmes‚ 18 Paddy Ryan‚ 19 Tom Staniforth‚ 20 Brad Wilkin‚ 21 Jake Gordon‚ 22 Bryce Hegarty‚ 23 Cam Clark.
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)‚ Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)