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Lions target a winning start

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The Lions will still have to be sharp if they’re to make it six in a row against the men from Sydney

The Lions will have a golden opportunity to kick off their four-match Super Rugby tour of Australasia with a win when they come up against the Waratahs in Sydney on Friday.

Not only does the recent history between the teams favour the Lions, but this year’s results – even if still at an early stage of the 2020 competition – also seem to suggest that the Waratahs are some way off the pace required to compete successfully in Super Rugby.

The Lions go into the game having won their last five matches against the men from Sydney; the last three results being 29-28, 44-26 and 29-0, all in favour of the Lions.

The last time the Lions were in Sydney, in 2018, they kept the Waratahs scoreless – the only time in their history.

However, it is not just the recent meetings between the teams that will boost the Lions’ confidence, but this year’s performances too.

Coach Ivan van Rooyen’s men may have started with a shock 38-8 defeat at the hands of the Jaguares in Buenos Aires, but they bounced back at home the next week to down the Reds 27-20, and then in their last outing before going on tour, against the Stormers, they conceded a last-minute converted try to lose 33-30.

But they produced a quality performance, full of energy and enthusiasm, that almost ended the Stormers’ unbeaten run.

On the flipside, the Waratahs, under new coach and former New Zealand All Black Rob Penney, have been poor.

In round one they suffered a 43-25 defeat to the Crusaders in Christchurch, followed by a 32-12 loss to the Blues at home and then before their bye, they went down 24-10 to the Rebels in Melbourne.

They and the Bulls are the only teams in the competition yet to pick up a win, while the Tahs haven’t even managed to bag a bonus point.

What Penney and company will hope is that the unfamiliar surroundings of the Bankwest Stadium, opened last April and situated in Parramatta, will be their good luck charm.

The Waratahs are playing at various venues across New South Wales this season as their regular home, Sydney Football Stadium, is under construction.

But while the Waratahs may have their backs to the wall and don’t push too many superstar players on to the field like they used to, the Lions will still have to be sharp if they’re to make it six in a row against the men from Sydney.

And they’ll have to keep a close watch on the likes of Kurtley Beale at the back and Michael Hooper up front.

Beale, whether at fullback, centre or flyhalf, is a dangerous operator who is playing his 14th season of Super Rugby.

He’ll be the key man at the back for the Waratahs, who’ve scored only six tries so far and are desperate to register a win.

Leading the way up front will be flanker Hooper, also a veteran of the ’Tahs.

If he manages to control the crucial department of the breakdowns on Friday, there’s every chance his team will play on the front foot and dominate the encounter. The Lions will have to keep him in check.

Both the Lions and Waratahs teams will be named today.