Lions and Brumbies in deathmatch in Canberra
Inconsistency has brought the Brumbies and the Lions to a juncture where defeat on Saturday is likely to have grave consequences.
The Brumbies with only two wins from their seven starts are closer to the abyss‚ while the Lions have lost ground at home that they need to somehow make up on the road.
A win over the Waratahs and their crushing of the Chiefs are the only spikes in performance for the Brumbies‚ who have been beset by injury.
The Lions‚ too‚ have struggled with orthopaedic upheaval.
Warren Whiteley‚ Cyle Brink (although he is back now)‚ Kwagga Smith‚ Dylan Smith and Andries Coetzee have all had to yield to injury in this campaign. That is apart from the list of players on the long-term casualty list.
It has meant combinations haven’t had time to settle but there is another reason this match is unlikely to be a free-flowing spectacle.
Both teams will go into the contest with a high degree of desperation and both have also struggled to put together an 80-minute effort.
The Brumbies are fast starters. They have led the majority of their matches this season at the break only to slip to defeat.
The Lions‚ by contrast‚ have been slow vacating the blocks and have had to rely on strong second-half performances to keep their campaign alive.
It has left coach Swys de Bruin to despair but he was hoping to flick the switch in his side from the outset on Saturday.
He knows both teams will be desperate from the outset.
“They lost to the Crusaders and we lost to the Sharks so you’ll have two hungry teams‚” said De Bruin from Canberra‚ where the team arrived on Wednesday.
“There is nothing wrong with our preparations and we haven’t picked up any additional injuries. Hopefully it stays like that.
“We’ve got good experience in the backline. In the pack there is a lot of youth but there is experience in Malcolm [Marx]‚ Marvin [Orie] and Cyle [Brink].
“Hopefully Cyle is better after his first game back‚” he said about the player who made his comeback last week after an eight-month layoff.
The Brumbies are still without inspirational fetcher David Pocock.
Tom Banks; Henry Speight‚ Tevita Kuridrani‚ Tom Wright‚ Toni Pulu; Christian Lealiifano‚ Joe Powell; Lachlan McCaffrey‚ Tom Cusack‚ Pete Samu; Sam Carter‚ Rory Arnold; Allan Alaalatoa‚ Folau Fainga’a‚ Scott Sio.
Josh Mann-Rea‚ James Slipper‚ Leslie Leuluaialii-Makin‚ Darcy Swain‚ Jahrome Brown; Matt Lucas‚ Irae Simone‚ Andy Muirhead.
Andries Coetzee; Ruan Combrinck‚ Lionel Mapoe‚ Franco Naude‚ Aphiwe Dyantyi; Elton Jantjies‚ Nic Groom; Hacjivah Dayimani‚ Stephan Lewies‚ Cyle Brink; Marvin Orie‚ Rhyno Herbst; Johannes Jonker‚ Malcolm Marx‚ Nathan McBeth.
Robbie Coetzee‚ Sti Sithole‚ Carlu Sadie‚ Wilhelm van der Sluys‚ Marnus Schoeman; Ross Cronje‚ Gianni Lombard‚ Sylvian Mahuza.
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)‚ Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
TMO: James Leckie (Australia)