Preview: Lions v Reds - Green and Gold Rugby
Queensland Reds

Preview: Lions v Reds

Preview: Lions v Reds

I’d open with something classy about the Lions lying in wait for the Reds but there is a good chance that Queensland made it to South Africa before the Lions made it back from Argentina after their loss to the Jaguares. Perhaps a full day earlier!

Unusually, for me, I’ve done the hard yards and watched the Lions dawdle against the much more fancied Jaguares. It was uninspiring, to say the least. The Lions forwards didn’t win the set-piece battle and had little impact in general play but were respectable in defence until the last third of the game. their halves seemed to be phoning it in, happy to move the ball on without creating anything.

The Reds on the other hand nearly held their own against one of the best-drilled packs in the competition. In fact, I believe it was only youthful exuberance that let the Reds forwards down, pushing a pass here and running away from support there. Flyhalf Issac Lucas felt the heat of the Brumbies rush defence early on and fought his way back as the game went on. Queensland has decided to run Lucas off the bench this week and let the vastly experienced James O’Connor start at flyhalf.

Let’s face it O’Connor has never set the world on fire at flyhalf but I’m willing to see how it pans out. With three other players in the squad who have played there for the Reds, there are plenty of options if things don’t work out.

Key matchups

Front Row/scrum

The Reds touched up the Brumbies in set-piece last week. The return of Izack Rodda and JP Smith will only make them stronger. While, as I write this, the Lions side hasn’t been announced there is an opportunity for the Reds to dominate the area. The only cloud on the horizon is two front-row debutants on the bench.

Elton Jantes v James O’Connor

Jantes is South Africa’s version of Quade Cooper with less talent and without the good sense to ditch the silly haircut. He’s up against the new and improved James O’Connor who has returned to his home state seeking redemption and looks to be doing a pretty good job of getting it.

I haven’t watched O’Connor play at 10 since Robbie Deans picked him there, out of position, against the lions instead of Cooper and set him up for a hiding to nothing. Seven years later O’Connor is a different proposition and Jantes looks completely off his game. But who know what could happen in a week.


Before I watched the Lions game against the Jaguares I’d predicted a win for the lions but having watched that game I believe the Reds must be Favourites for this. I think set-piece and general forward play goes to the Reds. Tate McDermott should have it over, Andre Warner at halfback and O’Connor, Stewart and Petaia will be a brick wall in the midfield
Reds by 17.

Damn it. The teams out. New halfback. Okay.

Reds by 10



1. Dylan Smith
2. Pieter Jansen
3. Jannie Du PLessis
4. Ruben Schoeman
5. Marvin Ore
6. Marnus Schoeman
7. Vincent Tshutuka
8. Len Massyn
9. Morne Van Den Berg
10. Elton Jantes
11. Courtnall Skosan
12. Dan Kriel
13. Duncan Mathews
14. Tyrone Green
15. Andries Coetzee

16. Jan-Henning Campher
17. Sti Sithole
18. Carlu Sadie
19. Wilhem Van Der Sluys
20. Ruan Vernaak
21. Dillon Smit
22. Manual Rass
23. Shaun Renolds


1. JP Smith – GPS
2. Alex Mafi – Bond University
3. Taniela Tupou – Brothers
4. Izack Rodda – Easts
5. Lukhan Salakaia-Loto – Souths
6. Angus Scott-Young – University of Queensland
7. Liam Wright © – Easts
8. Harry Wilson – Brothers
9. Tate McDermott – University of Queensland
10. James O’Connor – Brothers
11. Henry Speight – Bond University
12. Hamish Stewart – Brothers
13. Jordan Petaia – Wests
14. Jock Campbell – University of Queensland
15. Bryce Hegarty – GPS

16. Sean Farrell* – Souths
17. Dane Zander – Norths
18. Josh Nasser* – University of Queensland
19. Angus Blyth – Bond University
20. Seru Uru – Easts
21. Moses Sorovi – Wests
22. Isaac Lucas – Sunnybank
23. Hunter Paisami – Wests

*denotes potential Super Rugby and Queensland debut


Match: Lions v Reds
Date: Sunday 9 February
Venue: Emirates Airlines (Ellis) Park, Johannesburg
Kick-Off: 12:05 Qld
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant Ref 1:Cwengile Jadezweni
Assistant Ref 2: Griffin Colby
TMO :Marius Jonker 

  • Jason

    Yeah, after watching the Lions against the Jaguars, Reds by 17 is probably generous to the Lions but I’ll be disappointed if the Reds don’t pick up a bonus point.

  • Crescent

    Dare I say it – Lions have not been able to recruit to cover the kind of talent they lost from last season. Gone are the likes of Malcolm Marx, Warren Whiteley, Kwagga Smith and Lionel Mapoe. They are going to need some time to recover – particularly the likes of Marx and Smith who provided a lot of ball and created a lot for the Lions. Whiteley was gone for 2019, and really has been difficult for the Lions to replace.

    For once, the Reds look to be the more settled team, and with both teams doing some travel, for once this factor appears to be as neutralised as it ever will be. Key will be the Reds adjusting to playing at altitude, and being able to unleash their backs provided the forwards do the hard work.

    Could still be a banana skin game – but hard to see it from a very pedestrian performance in Argentina. Of the two teams, the Lions need to find a lot more improvement – have to like the Reds chances of taking the chocolates.

    • Mica

      Agree – the loss of Smith and Marx are massive. Also Whiteley and Mapoe were key players at the base of the scrum and OC for the Lions and are probably a bit underrated.
      Don’t agree with moving JOC to 10 – Lucas deserved another chance and I don’t think the JOC, Stewart combination is better than the Lucas, JOC combination. Did Lucas pick up a niggle last week or does Thorn want a more defensive 10,12,13?

  • Hoss

    I likes the Reds for this – think there specials.

    It will do wonders for their confidence and their season.

    There’s nothin in sport & business like momentum.

    • Adrian

      I thought that Boss,… until they dropped Lucas and brought Stewart in.

      I changed my ESPN tip.

      Their only hope now is Hegarty to actually play 5/8, O’Connor to stay at 12, and Stewart to FB. Bring Lucas on asap.

      Having said all of that, Reds will probably win now!

      • Hoss

        Its an interesting move. I thought JOC looked good at 12. Different horses for courses i guess

        • Adrian

          But I just reckon Thorn doesn’t understand backs at all.
          Whilst O’Connor might be ok at 10 (and good at 12), I don’t think the same about Stewart at 12.
          Stewart was an excellent schoolboy #7, but now too small.
          I reckon it is as much about finding a gig for him, as anything else.

          I corrected Boss to Hoss in post above.

        • idiot savant

          I agree with you Adrian that Thorn doesn’t appear to have any confidence in his ideas of back play. When he coached Qld Country to the NRC championship he had the backs playing a kind of Highlanders style (who Thorn last played for) whereby they kicked out of their own half all the time and only attacked in the opposition half. Stewart as 10 was vital to that strategy.

          I think he then wanted to take the same idea into super rugby with the Reds and wanted Stewart to do the same thing there. I like what I saw of Stewart at 10 in 2018. He only started there 5 times and the Reds won 3 of them including against the finalists Lions. Then when Jim McKay turned up in 2019, Stewart was quickly jettisoned. I can only surmise that McKay doesn’t rate him as a ten. The Highlander style is as far away from Randwick running rugby as you can get.

          I personally think the evidence is there that Sewart’s style of play wins more games because it means you dont play in your half and the outside backs get a lot more space and time when they do get the ball because Stewart has quick hands and doesn’t run. Lucas is a runner and so far McKay’s strategy appears to be to rely on his individual brilliance rather than a team strategy.

          Now JOC gets a run. I have no idea what he will do but I hope the outside backs get better ball with him there. Petaia had no space against the Brums.

        • McWarren

          IS I think you’ve hit the nail on the head regarding Stewart. I think its his kicking game and defence that has won him a spot this weekend. I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t drift back to 15 when the Lions are coming out of there half to field kicks and return them or to defend a breakout. He is a better defender and kicker than Hegarty. When the lions are in our half he will defend in the line. I think in attack he’ll swap in and out with O’Connor especially when exiting the 22.

          All the confidence in the comments so far has me terrified and preparing mentally for a shellacking.

        • Who?

          Totally agree with you Adrian. :-)

        • Adrian

          Yes, it’s mystifying Who

  • numpty

    My goodness I want the reds to win this one! But I also see it as one of those stumbling block games that will tell the tale of a season that could’ve been. Shame to see Lucas on the bench, I think his first outing was more then adequate, particularly in defence. Didn’t see the reds come alive in the last 15 when stewart came on and JOC moved to 10. Lets hope they practised their kicking and exits through the week. Lions may just win this one through sheer territory dominance and penalty kicks.

  • Adrian

    I just changed my ESPN tip from Reds to Lions.
    Madness dropping Lucas.
    Stewart at 12 is just a defender…at best

    • Mica

      Maybe Thorn is looking to play a wide 10 with inside and outside running options in JOC and Petaia and a quickish backrow to secure ball?

  • Simon

    I feel that, while the Lions must still be favourites at altitude and with Jaco behind the whistle, the Reds have a real chance. Certainly more than any recent years in this fixture.

    The bookies odds look enticing. Fallen into that trap before with the Reds though. More than a few times!

  • Mica

    Harsh comment for Jantjes. He’s had some pretty good season of Super Rugby and gave the Bokke a totally different option at 10 to Pollard and Steyn.

  • Reds Revival

    I don’t mind the switch. I think Thorn is planning to swap Lucas and JOC throughout the year, depending on who they’re playing. That’s going back to the Link days of figuring out what strategy you want to use in each game, depending on the opposition – smart rugby in my books. We’re all probably a bit jaded from the Cheika musical chairs as the game plan stayed exactly the same with people playing out of position. As long as Jim Mackay’s game plan changes, I’m all for it.
    Having said that, I also like that Lucas and Paisami will be coming on with with fresh legs at the end of the game. I rate both of these guys and think that as long as we don’t lose ground with the two green replacement props, we should finish stronger than the Lions. Reds by 10.

    • Who?

      It’s very different to the Link days. Link had his 9 and 10, varying the game plan, not the talent. I don’t see this as varying the game plan (which hasn’t been all that flexible under his tenure, it’s generally based around the pack being tougher than anyone else – a Thorn and Qld tradition), so much as shuffling the deck and hoping to somehow fluke a better hand.
      Thorn’s just continuing to show that he doesn’t necessarily understand what blokes with two numbers on their backs do. He’s got a 10 playing at 15, a 12 at 10, and a bloke who used to be a 7 but wants to be a 10 at 12. Last week he started with a 10 at 15 and a 15 at 10. It’s as if he’s like his old coach, the clueless Deans, who thought that you just put the shirts out and the backs picked whichever one was closest to fitting them.
      Given the Lions’ performance last week, I don’t see a victory over them – particularly one created from yet another strong forwards performance (and forwards’ fitness is something improved under Thorn – the set piece was excellent under Stiles, but the pack was usually gassed in general play) – demonstrates great strategic coaching of the backline.

  • Brumby Runner

    Reds in a canter. Lions have lost too much experience and fire power over the off season. At least a 15 point margin is my guess.

  • MungBean

    Blimey, how old is Jannie du Plessis??

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Just another Rugby tragic. Shane "Sully" Sullivan has been in man love with the game since high school in the 70's. He inflicts his passion on family and anyone who will listen. He can't guarantee unbiased opinion but he can tell you the Reds are Awesome! To read non-rugby content head to

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