Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Wounded Lions will come out roaring against Blues

Matt Proctor of the Hurricanes during the round 10 Super Rugby match between Lions and Hurricanes. Photo / Getty Images
Matt Proctor of the Hurricanes during the round 10 Super Rugby match between Lions and Hurricanes. Photo / Getty Images

The Lions are angry about being thrashed by the Hurricanes before last weekend's bye and want to make amends against the Blues, who will take to the Ellis Park pitch tomorrow morning without lock Josh Bekhuis.

It is a blow for the Blues. Bekhuis, who has started all nine games this season but has been ruled out by a calf injury, has impressed with his lineout work and general work rate.

Hoani Matenga replaces the Southlander alongside Patrick Tuipulotu. There is no lock cover on the bench.

Kara Pryor and Joe Edwards are loose forwards, which means Steven Luatua is likely to draw the short straw and move to the second row if needed.

With the Lions fielding a quality loose trio in the form of Warren Whiteley, Warwick Tecklenburg and Jaco Kriel, there will be pressure on Luatua, Tanerau Latimer and Jerome Kaino to combine accuracy and aggression in front of what is traditionally a hostile crowd.

The Blues stayed in touch with their win over the Kings last weekend, but the Lions are also in a desperate hunt for competition points.

Their conference rivals the Sharks have been the major beneficiaries of the Hurricanes' recent visit to South Africa. They saw Chris Boyd's men thrash the Lions 50-17 before they beat them 32-15 in Durban, and, now the Lions have had a week's rest to dwell on their slip, they are likely to come out roaring against the Blues.

"We had a bit of a buffer on the Sharks [in the African Two conference], but gave it up with that loss to the Hurricanes," coach Johann Ackermann told South African media.

"We are basically level [on the table with the Sharks]. There are just six games remaining - three now and another three after the June break.

"In the context that this is a home game and the Sharks are hot on our heels, that makes this a hugely important game.

"Neither of us [Lions and Sharks] can afford any more slips.

"We have really worked hard to fix the mistakes we made in the last match against the Hurricanes and especially a lot of detail was spent on the breakdown area which wasn't up to scratch in our last match," said Ackermann.

The Blues have proven remarkably good at the breakdown this season - using the ball has been their main problem - so the battle in the contact area is likely to be a defining one.

- NZ Herald

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