The Emirates Lions will host the Reds in their first Vodacom Super Rugby home game on Saturday. The Lions lost 38-8 against the Jaguares in Argentina while the Reds had a close loss of 24-27 against the Brumbies in Canberra.
Springbok fullback Andries Coetzee makes a welcome return as a replacement for Tiaan Swanepoel, to the Emirates Lions team with the only other change to the starting line-up being Morne van den Berg who replaces the injured Andre Warner at scrumhalf.
Meanwhile, the Reds have made four changes to their starting team. Wallaby utility back James O’Connor switches from inside-centre to flyhalf for only his second start in the Reds’ No 10 jersey, and Hamish Stewart comes off the bench and slots in to the vacant midfield spot. Upfront, Izack Rodda (lock) will also earn his first start of the season. Alex Mafi will start at hooker following an ankle injury to Brandon Paenga-Amosa during last week’s clash in Canberra.
Emirates Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen said that the Reds have a good coach in Brad Thorn, a former player who was a physical and hard man, and I think that is how his team will play as well – we have a lot of respect for them.”
He also added that they worked very hard at every aspect of the game but one must see the little changes he made that he has confidence in his current group of players and there is no need for panic. "They came up against a very good and also experienced team, the lessons they learnt will come in handy later on in the season".
The Reds coach Brad Thorn said: “We’ve got a tough game against the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg. They've been a good side over the past half-decade, and it’ll be a tough contest.”
When questioned on the switch between Isaacs and O'Connor he said: "We've been trying both Isaac and James (at flyhalf) there all pre-season and they've been having turns about, as you saw in the second half (in Canberra), James moved into the 10 role and we just want to have a look at him. We also think Isaac can really bring something in that last 20 minutes as well. We're pleased with both James and Isaac, they're just playing different roles this week."
The match in Johannesburg starts at 15h05.
Emirates Lions: 1 Dylan Smith, 2 Pieter Jansen, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 5 Marvin Orie, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 8 Len Massyn, 9 Morne van den Berg, 10 Elton Jantjies (captain), 11 Courtnall Skosan, 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Tyrone Green, 13 Duncan Matthews, . Replacements: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20 Ruan Vermaak, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Manuel Rass, 23 Shaun Reynolds.
Reds: 15 Bryce Hegarty, 14 Jock Campbell, 13 Jordan Petaia, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Henry Speight, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Liam Wright (captain), 6 Angus Scott-Young, 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Alex Mafi, 1 Jean-Pierre Smith. Replacements: 16 Sean Farrell, 17 Dane Zander, 18 Josh Nasser, 19 Angus Blyth, 20 Seru Uru, 21 Moses Sorovi, 22 Isaac Lucas, 23 Hunter Paisami.