In the only other change to the starting line-up Morne van den Berg replaces the injured Andre Warner (ankle) at scrumhalf.

Meanwhile, the Reds have made four changes to their starting team. Wallaby utility back James O’Connor switches from inside-centre to flyhalf for only his second start in the Reds’ No 10 jersey, and Hamish Stewart comes off the bench and slots into the vacant midfield spot.

Upfront, Izack Rodda (lock) will also earn his first start of the season. Alex Mafi will start at hooker following an ankle injury to Brandon Paenga-Amosa during last week’s clash in Canberra.

The Reds defeated the Emirates Lions 27-22 in their most recent meeting, on 28 April 2018 after keeping them scoreless in the first half (24-0) to end a three-match losing run against the men from Johannesburg.

However, the Emirates Lions will be boosted by their excellent home record against teams from Down Under. They have won 10 of their last 11 home games against Aussie opposition in South Africa – including their last seven in a row – with the only defeat during that time a reverse against the Brumbies in 2015.

What they said:

Emirates Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen: “The Reds have a good coach in Brad Thorn, a former player who was a physical and hard man, and I think that is how his team will play as well – we have a lot of respect for them.”

Reds head coach Brad Thorn: “We’ve got a tough game against the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg. They've been a good side over the past half-decade, and it’ll be a tough contest.”

The teams:

Emirates Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Tyrone Green, 13 Duncan Matthews, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies (captain), 9 Morne van den Berg, 8 Len Massyn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Pieter Jansen, 1 Dylan Smith. Replacements: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 20 Ruan Vermaak, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Manuel Rass, 23 Shaun Reynolds.

Reds: 15 Bryce Hegarty, 14 Jock Campbell, 13 Jordan Petaia, 12 Hamish Stewart, 11 Henry Speight, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Harry Wilson, 7 Liam Wright (captain), 6 Angus Scott-Young, 5 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Alex Mafi, 1 Jean-Pierre Smith. Replacements: 16 Sean Farrell, 17 Dane Zander, 18 Josh Nasser, 19 Angus Blyth, 20 Seru Uru, 21 Moses Sorovi, 22 Isaac Lucas, 23 Hunter Paisami.

Head to head:

Played: 12

Emirates Lions won: 5

Reds won: 6

Drawn: 1

Emirates Lions points: 302

Reds points: 312

Average scores: 26-25

Match information:

Venue: Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg

Date: Saturday 8 February

SA time: 15h05

Referee: Jaco Peyper

Assistant referees: Cwengile Jadezweni, Griffin Colby

TMO: Marius Jonker