Preview: Lions v Crusaders

The Crusaders broke the Reds defence often enough to suggest they will score well at Johannesburg and, if their error rate is down from last week, should win easily.

VENUE & TIME: Ellis Park, Johannesburg, Sunday February 18, 05:30 NZT (16:30 Saturday local).

HEAD TO HEAD: Played 11 - Crusaders 8, Transvaal/Gauteng/Cats 3.

LAST TIME: March 17, 2006 (Christchurch) - Crusaders 43-15 Cats.

WALKING WOUNDED: The Lions were hoping to get some of their squad off a too-long injury list and back onto the field this week; at the head of that list was skipper Andre Pretorius but his hamstring problems are still not cured. They do get Jaco Pretorius back in midfield and Jacques Cronje on the bench. The Crusaders are not having many injury worries at present and have a full squad to pick from.

FORM: The Lions did enough to win last week but it was an awful match against a Highlanders team that was all but clueless. On that showing, the Lions are still booked for a double-figure finish to the season. The Crusaders scored five tries against the Reds and looked more like the Crusaders of old, but will need to cut down on the error rate in their own half. Some of the senior players were guilty of mental lapses that cost points and, in South Africa, these players need to be more accurate.

WHO'S HOT: The Lions bumbled through their last match and they have had few standout performances so far in 2007, although several players in the squad are good footballers. Wylie Human, one of the better-performed Lions, showed that he can take an opportunity as fast as anyone. The pack is big but hardly a world force. The Crusaders are getting good value out of Kieran Read at No 6 in a sound pack, while Stephen Brett shows some good touches from time to time. Scott Hamilton had his usual steady game on both attack and defence last week.

WE THINK: The Crusaders should win this one easily and take five points � providing their minds are on the job. While they have a good record at altitude, none of the wins have been by more than 12 points and often the losing team in this match scores 30 points or more. That shouldn�t happen this week; we tip the Crusaders to win by 13+.


Lions:1 � Heinke van der Merwe, 2 � Willie Wepener, 3 � Brian Mujati, 4 � Cobus Grobler, 5 � Anton van Zyl, 6 � Cobus Grobbelaar, 7 � Ernst Joubert (captain), 8 � Willem Alberts, 9 � Jano Vermaak, 10 � Louis Strydom, 11 � Jaco van Schalkwyk, 12 � Jaque Fourie, 13 � Jaco Pretorius, 14 � Wylie Human, 15 � Louis Ludik.

Reserves: 16 � Ethienne Reynecke, 17 � Bertus Smit, 18 � Franco van der Merwe, 19 � Jacques Cronje, 20 � Ricky Januarie, 21 � Jannie Boshoff, 22 � Earl Rose.

Crusaders:1 � Ben Franks, 2 � Corey Flynn (captain), 3 � Campbell Johnstone, 4 � Ross Filipo, 5 � Kevin O�Neill, 6 � Kieran Read, 7 � Johnny Leo�o, 8 � Mose Tuiali�i, 9 � Andy Ellis, 10 � Stephen Brett, 11 � Caleb Ralph, 12 � Rua Tipoki, 13 � Casey Laulala, 14 � Rico Gear, 15 � Scott Hamilton.

Reserves: 16 � Ti�i Paulo, 17 � Wyatt Crockett or Ben May, 18 � Michael Paterson, 19 � Jake Paringatai, 20 � Kevin Senio, 21 � Tusi Pisi, 22 � Brent Ward.

REFEREE: Brett Bowden