RaboDirect Rebels v Lions Players to watch:
James Hilgendorf: In his last outing at fly-half James Hilgendorf proved to be a pivot with solid ball skills and an attacking streak. He’s a nimble, fleet-footed utility who backs himself with the ball in hand. He can weave his way through traffic and create opportunities.
He’s an excellent communicator, and a brilliant tactician. He’ll drive the play reliably, and put his runners through gaps as they open. He has a remarkable ability to keep his hands free in the tackle and has excellent timing on his close-in passes and his looping cut-out passes are extremely accurate. He’s got a cheeky short range chip and a raking left foot kick that will serve him well in general play that could open up space for Mitchell.
He’s reliable in defence and can usually slide well in cover. The South African halves have a more conservative playing style that will suit his positive attitude. He should be able to spark the Rebels midfield by running into the line.
Hugh Perrett: The speedy flanker was a late inclusion in the Rebels squad this year but has justified his selection in the touring party. He’s fast and agile, and runs like an inside back. He can make the yards in generally play, and can exploit a crowded area in general play.
He has great ball skills, and a safe pair of hands. He’s good at the counter ruck and is able to find the ball in the break down.
He’s got strong defensive skills. He tends to be a ball-and-all tackler, who can wrap up a ball-runner and bring him to ground effectively in the one-on-one encounters. He’s fast off the defensive line, and can close down the space for the opposition halves.
A captain at Shute Shield side Eastwood, his skills and leadership make him a ready made player who has capitalised on the opportunities the Rebels have provided. He’s agility and speed will be a weapon amongst the heavy South African forwards and he could surprise if the ball bounces his way.
Lachlan Mitchell: He’s one of the toughest in the Rebels squad. He has brilliant instincts and an explosive turn of speed. He’s also a brilliant finisher with the ball in hand. He’s a strong ball runner and can run wide when he has space, and can muscle his way through a crowded midfield.
He’s shown a freakish ability to catch cross-field kicks, and his ability to off-load the ball is a real positive for his centre combination with Mitch Inman.
He’s a consummate professional, and a committed team player. His selflessness has often been to his own detriment, both in attack and defence.
They don’t come much tougher than Mitchell. His presence in the midfield may make the difference.
Elton Jantjies: He’s a goal kicking genius and innovative play maker. He’s creative by hand and can turn defences with his own chipping game.
Some rate him ahead of the Bulls’ Morne Steyn because of his skills when keeping the ball in hand. He’s managed to squeeze some unlikely passes to support players, as well as throw some loose one-handed off-loads. While he can be unpredictable, he’s dangerous when his cheeky passing game comes off.
Some have called him a South African Carlos Spencer such is his crafty play making. Like any good flyhalf, he’ll need to be closely marked by James Hilgendorf, in concert with Mitchell and Inman providing cover.
Butch James: He’s an excellent tackler and place kicker. The fiery midfielder has a history of yellow cards for his very physical play. He’s a near perfect #12, with a strong running game and a silky set of hands and can put the ball in front of his outside backs.
His running game is a highlight of his play; he can run the attacking lines with the ball in hand but can also run the supporting lines and loop around to create the overlap. In the playmaking stakes James can distribute the ball skilfully by hand and can also put the ball ahead by foot. He’ll be a handful if he is afforded any time or space, and needs to be shut down.
He’s got a big defensive game, and has made some big tackles in his time, including a bone-jarring hit on Stirling Mortlock in his prime.
Franco van der Merwe: The lock forward is a work horse, grinding away at the opposition with every tackle and every hit-up. It’s unfair to label van der Merwe just a ‘work horse’ for he’s extremely athletic and incredibly fit. He’s a big man; at 198cm and 114kg he’s comparable to the Rebels own Cadyern Neville.
A former Lions’ captain, he’ll provide much of the leadership for their forward pack. He’ll heavily influence the breakdown, and will be the first in to clear out. His size and presence will be something the Rebels will need to negate, and will take a lot of man-power from the locks and back row to ensure the close in defence doesn’t succumb to his game plan.
He’s a crafty line-out jumper. He’ll be reliable and metronomic for the Lions in the set piece, and will be a pest to the Rebels on their throw. He’ll be a thorn in the Rebels’ side for most of the 80 minutes.