In spite of the setback presented by the unforeseen viral cluster that has cropped up, the Lions can boast about their quality of depth when they take the field this weekend.
JOHANNESBURG – Do not be beholden to fear and dread ye Lions supporters – The Pride is in a healthy space, despite losing nine of their squad players to Covid-19 precautions this week.
That much was clear yesterday when coach Ivan van Rooyen announced his team to take on early pace-setters the Cheetahs in Round 3 of SuperRugby Unlocked at Emirates Airline Park tomorrow (kick-off 4.30pm).
In spite of the setback presented by the unforeseen viral cluster that has cropped up, the Lions can boast about their quality of depth when they take the field this weekend. Only three changes have been made to the starting XV, which sees Van Rooyen insert Wandisile Simelane, Gianni Lombard and MJ Pelser who will replace Burger Odendaal, Elton Jantjies and Jaco Kriel, respectively.
Said the coach of the changes: “It has been a good week for us, we had a good training session on Tuesday and we had a good training session yesterday (Thursday).
“Our weekly program has stayed exactly the same. It is a great opportunity for the (new) guys to get an opportunity. Everyone in the team has played for us this year. Everyone can put in a performance to win us the game.”
The loss of Jantjies is arguably the biggest blow to the team, as the Springbok and World Cup winner is no doubt the heartbeat of the team. The inspirational flyhalf will miss the match due to a calf muscle strain picked up in training on Tuesday, with his non-selection a backstop to ensure he does not compound the injury.
His replacement Lombard, however, has long been earmarked as the future of the union and in the recent Super Fan Saturday event held earlier this month, showed his growing prowess and undisputed talent.
So too do Simelane and Pelser bring a degree of youthful enthusiasm and willingness to perform to the set-up and both will be eager to please when they run out against the Cheetahs.
The biggest shake-up Van Rooyen has had to deal with is to be found on the bench where six players have been shuffled into the team. All of PJ Botha, Nathan McBride, Jannie du Plessis, Marnus Schoeman, Stean Pienaar and Tiaan Swanepoel will find themselves warming up on the sideline.
Meanwhile, Free State Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie has made one enforced change to his matchday 23 to face the Lions with Tian Meyer starting at No 9.
Lions Starting XV: EW Viljoen; Jamba Ulengo, Wandisile Simelane, Dan Kriel (capt), Rabz Maxwane; Gianni Lombard, Morné van den Berg; Len Massyn, Vincent Tshituka, MJ Pelser, Marvin Orie, Ruben Schoeman, Carlu Sadie, Jaco Visagie, Sti Sithole
Replacements: PJ Botha, Nathan McBeth, Jannie du Plessis, Wilhelm van der Sluys, Marnus Schoeman, Ross Cronjé, Stean Pienaar, Tiaan Swanepoel
Cheetahs Starting XV: Clayton Blommetjies, Malcolm Jaer, Benhard Janse van Rensburg, Frans Steyn, Rosko Specman, Tian Schoeman, Tian Meyer, Jasper Wiese, Junior Pokomela (capt), Andisa Ntsila, Walt Steenkamp, Carl Wegner, Luan de Bruin, Reinach Venter, Charles Marais
Replacements: Jacques du Toit, Boan Venter, Erich de Jager, JP du Preez, Aidon Davis, Chris Massyn, Ruben de Haas, William Small-Smith