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Lions have to bounce back against Rebels

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It will be a very changed Lions team that will run onto the field on Saturday and one that is under pressure after a poor start to their season

The Lions now have it all to do to ensure their four-match Super Rugby tour of Australasia doesn’t turn into a nightmare.

Ivan van Rooyen’s men crashed in their first game on tour on Friday in Sydney, losing 29-17 to the Waratahs, who up to that stage hadn’t won a game this season.

It was the Lions’ third defeat in four matches, to go with losses to the Jaguares and Stormers. Their only win has come against the Reds.

And now the Lions have to take on a Rebels team that is on the up in Melbourne this Saturday. They registered a first ever win in Dunedin last Friday when they downed the Highlanders 28-22 and they’ll have revenge on their minds after throwing away a golden opportunity to record a rare win at Ellis Park against the Lions last year.

Coach Dave Wessels’ men raced into a commanding position in the corresponding fixture 12 months ago and were well set at 33-5 up in the early stages of the second half. The Lions though scored 31 unanswered points in the final 38 minutes to score a quite remarkable round five win.

Replacement Lions flyhalf Gianni Lombard slotted the winning penalty – the Lions’ only shot at goal during the game – after the final hooter had sounded, to go with tries by Lions players Malcolm Marx, Marnus Schoeman, Andries Coetzee, Lionel Mapoe and Courtnal Skosan.

While he didn’t score a try, flank Kwagga Smith was the big star for his team in what was a remarkable comeback.

The match will not have been forgotten by Wessels and the players, but they will know this time they are on home soil and the Lions can no longer pick the likes of Mapoe, Marx and Smith.

It will be a very changed Lions team that will run onto the field on Saturday and one that is under pressure after a poor start to their season.

The Lions have struggled to get on top of their opponents in the set-pieces and also been outplayed at the breakdowns. They have also lacked spark on attack and been leaky in defence. Van Rooyen’s men have scored only 11 tries in their four games, including the two from line-out drives by flank Schoeman against the Tahs on Friday.

Van Rooyen will have to think long and hard about the way his team are playing and also consider picking some other players to start, among them such dynamic players like loose-forward Hacjivah Dayimani and centre Wandisile Simelane.

There will also be one enforced change following the tour-ending injury suffered by flank Vincent Tshituka (ankle), with Ruan Vermaak set to replace him in the squad. The more experienced Roelof Smit (quad injury) and Jaco Kriel (ankle) are not available to play at the moment.