Warren Whiteley back as Lions captain for Chiefs battle
Coach De Bruin revamps the back row and brings in Smith for the Super Rugby match
Warren Whiteley is back as captain of the Lions for their clash with the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday.
Whiteley‚ who injured a pectoral muscle in week two of the competition against the Stormers in February‚ will be a welcome addition to the side that lost their last two Super Rugby matches, against the Sharks (at home) and the Brumbies (away).
Whiteley was declared fit to tour last Friday and will be joined in a back row bolstered by the return of Kwagga Smith.
Smith has recovered from a groin injury and will pack down on the side of the scrum in a much revamped back row from the one that started against the Brumbies.
Hacjivah Dayimani drops out of the match-day squad‚ while Stephan Lewies, who packed down on the side of the scrum, has moved to lock.
Last week’s back-row configuration proved an unwieldy one and coach Swys de Bruin has reverted to one that is tried and tested.
Apart from the changes to the back row De Bruin has also opted to rotate his squad with the introduction to the starting team of Gianni Lombard (flyhalf)‚ Ross Cronjé (scrumhalf)‚ Robbie Coetzee (hooker) and Sylvian Mahuza (fullback).
Lombard is in for Elton Jantjies, who will be on the bench.
Lombard has been mercurial in his limited time on the field this season and will now get a proper opportunity to showcase his talent against the 2012 and 2013 champions.
Coetzee‚ who had to shrug off long-term injury‚ is a late starter to the competition this season. He has big boots to fill with Malcolm Marx dropping to the bench.
Marx will have Andries Coetzee as company‚ with Mahuza getting a crack from the start.
The Lions will be under pressure to repeat their only previous win in Hamilton in 2016.
On that occasion they were buoyed by a win in Tokyo but this time they have to pick themselves off the floor after defeat in the Australian capital.
They are up against a Chiefs team still coming to terms with the loss of star playmaker Damian McKenzie, who is out for the season after rupturing his right ACL.
The All Black suffered the knee injury in the 41st minute of the Chiefs’ clash against the Blues last week and McKenzie is likely to miss the Rugby World Cup as a result.
The Chiefs‚ however‚ are unlikely to tinker with their attacking approach in McKenzie’s absence.
Solomon Alaimalo moved to fullback when McKenzie left the field last week‚ but former Melbourne Rebel Jack Debreczeni or Shaun Stephenson may fill the void this week.
Lions team to play the Chiefs: Sylvian Mahuza; Courtnall Skosan‚ Lionel Mapoe‚ Franco Naude‚ Aphiwe Dyantyi; Gianni Lombard‚ Ross Cronjé; Warren Whiteley‚ Cyle Brink‚ Kwagga Smith; Marvin Orie‚ Stephan Lewies; Carlu Sadie‚ Robbie Coetzee‚ Sti Sithole. Replacements: Malcolm Marx‚ Frans van Wyk‚ Johannes Jonker‚ Wilhelm van der Sluys‚ Marnus Schoeman; Nic Groom‚ Elton Jantjies‚ Andries Coetzee