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Super Rugby preview: Lions host Melbourne Rebels at Ellis Park
As the Super Rugby season enter a penultimate round of regular season action, the Lions will be aiming to add another notable scalp when they host Melbourne Rebels at Ellis Park on Friday.
After returning to the southern hemisphere’s premier competition, Johan Ackermann’s side have already seen off the Reds and Blues and could claim a sixth win of the season should they prevail in Johannesburg in Round 18.
Following the Springboks’ one-off match against Scotland, outside the Test window, the Lions make their return to Super Rugby action a week later than the Australian and New Zealand franchises, though they will be buoyant.
Fly-half Marnitz Boshoff made his South Africa bow in the 55-6 thumping of Scotland at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, coming on as a second half replacement for Handre Pollard, and there is also a welcome return for Franco van der Merwe in the second row.
It was a more bleak return from the international window for Tony McGahan’s side as the Rebels lost a seven-try thriller against the Reds 36-20 in Melbourne last Friday.
Tours of South Africa have been problematic for the Rebels, who conceded 98 points in defeats to the Sharks and Cheetahs on their most recent visit.
Ahead of the Rebels’ arrival Ackermann has opted largely for consistency, with only three changes to the side which beat the Bulls before the June Test break.
The lone change in the pack sees Van der Merwe make a timely return to action after recovering from an ankle injury, while Anthony Volmink and Deon van Rensburg are brought in on the wings.
In the wake of their defeat to the Reds, Rebels head coach McGahan has made four changes to his starting line-up as they go in search of a first win on foreign soil against the Lions.
Lock Hugh Pyle returns to the run-on side as one of three changes to the pack, with Shota Horie – fresh from committing his future to the franchise – and Scott Fugistaller also restored.
In the backs, Tom Kingston gets the nod on the right wing and 21-year-old full-back Jack Debreczeni will share kicking duties with fly-half Bryce Hegarty, with regular No 15 Jason Woodward providing cover from the bench.
Lions: 15 Van Wyk, 14 Van Rensburg, 13 Hanekom, 12 Hollenbach, 11 Volmink, 10 Boshoff, 9 Cronje; 1 S van der Merwe, 2 Coetzee, 3 Redelinghuys, 4 Mostert, 5 F van der Merwe, 6 Kriel, 7 Tecklenburg, 8 Whiteley (capt)
Replacements: 16 A van der Merwe, 17 Van Rooyen/ Fourie, 18 Dreyer, 19 Britz, 20 Minnie, 21 De Klerk, 22 Jantjies, 23 Mapoe
Rebels: 15 Debreczeni, 14 Kingston, 13 Ellison, 12 Inman, 11. English 10 Hegarty, 9 Burges; 1 Smith, 2 Horie, 3 Weeks, 4 Pyle, 5 Jones, 6 Fainga’a, 7 Fugilstaller, 8 Higginbotham (capt)
Replacements: 16 Leafa, 17 Ah-Nau, 18 Alo-Emile, 19 Neville, 20 Reid, 21 Stirzaker, 22 Woodward, 23 Veainu
Watch Lions v Melbourne Rebels live on Sky Sports 3HD from 6pm
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Read the thoughts and opinions of Phil Edwards with skysports.com