Preview: Lions vs Rebels
History will be made in more ways than one when the Lions host the Rebels at Coca-Cola Park in Johannesburg on Saturday afternoon.
It will be the first time ever these two sides face-off in Super Rugby after the Rebels, from Melbourne, joined the competition last year.
Because of the way the season is structured, the 15 teams in Super Rugby only plays 13 league fixtures, missing out on one team (never from their own Conference though).
Last year, the Lions and the Rebels “missed” each other, and now they will finally complete the circle whereby each and every team in the competition has played each other at least once.
Nothing more than pride will be at stake at Coca-Cola Park. The Lions have had an unhappy season on numerous fronts and would like nothing more than to add another victory to their win column on the log.
"We don't really play to prove something to anyone, we play for ourselves," Lions skipper Josh Strauss said on Thursday.
"I think we have a lot to play for in the last two games - if you want to call it pride, it could be that."
Strauss said with his team firmly out of play-off contention, they will use their last two Super Rugby matches to build momentum for the upcoming Currie Cup.
"You want to have great momentum going into a competition that you are the defending champions of.
"So we definitely have a lot to play for,” he said.
The Rebels have not fared much better, but a win in Johannesburg could ensure they don’t finish bottom of the Australian Conference.
History will also be made with the whistle on Saturday as Francisco Pastrana of Argentina will become the first “foreign referee” to referee a match in Super Rugby.
Thus far, all other referee appointments have been made from officials from the three SANZAR countries.
Key Battle: Josh Strauss vs. Gareth Delve. Strauss has been one of the Lions’ best players this season and so has Welshman Delve for the Rebels. They’re leaders in their respective franchises and will be looked to to lead by example.
Prediction: If nothing else, the Lions have plenty of pride and they will be buoyed by their performance against the Stormers last weekend.
The Rebels will feel the absence of injured young Wallaby stars Kurtley Beale and James O’Connor, and with it being the majority of the squad’s first visit to the famous Coca-Cola Park, altitude may well prove decisive. Lions by five points.
Saturday 7 July: Lions vs. Melbourne Rebels, Johannesburg (17:05)
Lions: 15 James Kamana, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Butch James, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Joshua Strauss (captain), 7 Grant Hattingh, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Franco Van der Merwe, 4 Hendrik Roodt, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Ruaan Dreyer, 18 Etienne Oosthuizen, 19 Jaco Kriel, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 JR Esterhuizen, 22 Ruan Combrinck.
Melbourne Rebels: 15 Julian Huxley, 14 Mark Gerrard, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Stirling Mortlock (c), 11 Cooper Vuna, 10 James Hilgendorf, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Gareth Delve, 7 Hugh Perrett, 6 Tim Davidson, 5 Al Campbell, 4 Cadeyrn Neville, 3 Jono Owen, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Nic Henderson.
Replacements: 16 Adam Freier, 17 Paul Alo-Emile, 18 Hugh Pyle, 19 Luke Jones, 20 Richard Kingi, 21 Lachlan Mitchell, 22 Lloyd Johansson.