Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Match-winning sensation no certainty to play the Blues

Marnitz Boshoff is easily the leading points scorer. Photo  / Getty Images
Marnitz Boshoff is easily the leading points scorer. Photo / Getty Images

He has been a match-winner for the Lions this season - a player kicking at 95 per cent and from all over the park - but Marnitz Boshoff still isn't a certainty to play the Blues at Ellis Park on Sunday morning.

Lions coach Johan Ackermann is said to have a tough decision this week about whether to start Springboks No10 Elton Jantjies, a player returning from injury who started in last weekend's loss to the Sharks, or go back to Boshoff, a 25-year-old taking Johannesburg by storm this season.

If Ackermann does go for Boshoff, the Blues must be extremely careful not to concede penalties within 60m of their line because that is well within Boshoff's range. His statistics tell the story - he has kicked all five of his conversion attempts and missed only one of 17 penalties. He is also a drop goal expert - he has been successful with four in his four appearances, including a late match-winner in game one against the Cheetahs and an incredible three in the first half of the Lions' victory over the Stormers.

With 70 points, he is comfortably the leading points scorer in the competition.

"If you've got a Springbok player you've got to put him in somewhere," Ackermann told South African media of his decision to start Jantjies last weekend. "The flyhalf situation is something we have to ponder ... do we stick with the same team or do we bring Jantjies off the bench?"

Blues coach Sir John Kirwan doesn't have a conundrum at first-five - he is likely to stay with 20-year-old Simon Hickey, who has also proven to be extremely accurate with the boot. In Hickey's two 80-minute appearances for the Blues, against the Crusaders and Bulls, he has missed only one from 13, a strike rate of 92 per cent.

Kirwan's treatment of import Benji Marshall, however, is less certain this week. A promising 15-minute cameo at the end of the loss to the Highlanders was followed by the 28-year-old watching the win over the Crusaders from the bench and not being included in the match-day 23 at Loftus Versfeld last weekend.

The Lions have been a surprise package this season with two victories in four games after not being included in the competition last year, but they are not likely to defend with the same intensity as the Bulls.

The softly-softly approach to Marshall's integration from league must end some time or he could become frustrated and the Lions match could be an ideal one for him to get more of a feel for the game.

If Marshall spends time at fullback his defensive duties aren't likely to be overly taxing. According to the Rugby Herald's Stats Centre, the Lions are averaging only two clean breaks a match, the worst in the competition.

• Hayden Triggs and Baden Kerr have been named in the Blues Development team to play their Chiefs counterparts in Papakura today.

Ma'a Nonu and Jerome Kaino are likely to be available for the Blues against the Cheetahs at Eden Park a week on Saturday.

- APNZ

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