JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The New South Wales Waratahs will be on a mission to shut down the Lions’ turnover specialist Malcolm Marx in Saturday’s Super Rugby semi-final and give their backs the best chance to take the game away from the South Africans, lock Jed Holloway said.
The marauding Springbok was in menacing form in the quarter-final win over the Jaguares, winning five penalty turnovers to further burnish his claim as one of the world’s best hookers.
He looms as a big threat to the Waratahs’ hopes of quick ball to unleash a backline that proved too hot to handle for the eliminated Highlanders in Sydney last week.
“We’ve just been focusing as the forward pack on really shutting those guys down. Malcolm Marx has been great for them,” Holloway told reporters from Johannesburg on Wednesday.
“We believe if we shut down their players, our backs will take over ... We believe we have the best backline in the competition.”
Flyhalf Bernard Foley and fullback Israel Folau ran over three tries in seven minutes to turn a 23-6 deficit against the Highlanders into a rousing 30-23 win in Sydney.
But the Waratahs have had little joy in recent times against the Johannesburg-based Lions, South Africa’s most dominant team of the past few seasons.
The Lions held the Waratahs scoreless for the first time ever in a 29-0 humiliation on home soil in April and ran in eight tries against them in a 55-36 drubbing at Ellis Park last year.
The 2014 champion Waratahs lost their only other playoff in South Africa against the Cape Town-based Stormers in 2010.
After the long haul over the Indian Ocean, few teams have left South Africa victorious during the post-season.
However, assistant coach Chris Malone said the Waratahs had no plans to tone down their attacking game to conserve themselves in the thinner air of the highveld.
Nor would they use the higher altitude or the long road-trip as excuses if the result went the wrong way.
“The first thing is we’re a hell of a lot fitter than that stage last year,” Malone said, referring to last year’s loss in Johannesburg.
“For us not to play our game would be crazy ... We’ve been controlling the ball better in recent times. We can’t go away from that.
“It’s do or die, we’re going to leave our best out there.”
Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty