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Lions face Pumas in Cup catfight

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The winner will play in the semi-finals; the loser’s season will be over.

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WITH a semi-final place on the line, the big question is will Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen throw his big guns into the clash against the Pumas in Nelspruit on Friday?

The Lions go into the final round-robin game in fourth place with 16 points, while the Pumas are fifth with 12 points. The winner will play in the semi-finals; the loser’s season will be over.

But while the Pumas has proven a tough nut to crack at home in Nelspruit and should fancy their chances against their rivals from Joburg, Van Rooyen has a few aces up his sleeve this week, which could prove telling.

With the Rugby Championship done and dusted, several Springbok players are all of a sudden available to the Lions. Backs Aphiwe Dyantyi (pictured), Lionel Mapoe, Elton Jantjies and Ross Cronje could move straight into the starting team for this weekend’s match, while Warren Whiteley – who missed both home Tests of the Rugby Championship recently because of injury – will have to pass a fitness test before he is considered.

Hooker Malcolm Marx, who was man of the match against New Zealand at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, may be given a week off, considering he has played a lot of rugby recently.

Van Rooyen will certainly be desperate to get these stars into the mix as quickly as possible as he looks to secure a last-four place. And how the Lions could do with a boost right now.

After making a good start to the Currie Cup competition, with wins against Griquas, the Cheetahs and the Bulls, Van Rooyen’s team came unstuck in their two most recent outings. Against the Sharks on September 22, they lost 37-21, while the week before that they were handed a 65-38 hiding by Western Province.

A win for the Lions would also see them move into third place and overtake the Bulls (17 points) should the Pretoria-based team fail to beat Western Province – the runaway log leaders with a perfect five-out-of-five record for 25 points – at Loftus on Saturday.

Van Rooyen will name his team for Friday’s match today.