Warren Whiteley back to boost the Lions
Influential captain who has been beset by injury for the second season running, is returning at the same time with four other to strengthen the side
The Lions will have their inspirational leader Warren Whiteley back for Saturday’s Super Rugby clash against the Waratahs at Ellis Park.
Whiteley‚ who had been missing through injury over the past few weeks‚ is back to lead the side that includes fellow returnees hooker Malcolm Marx‚ wing Courtnall Skosan‚ flank Vincent Tshituka and centre Harold Vorster.
Whiteley’s return‚ however‚ comes as a huge boost to the starting XV that is almost at full strength.
The only big name absentee is flank Cyle Brink‚ who coach Swys de Bruin said could have played had the occasion been bigger on Saturday.
The Lions have looked a little lost without Whiteley but he will bring clarity and composure to their ranks. He has‚ however‚ been beset by injury for the second season running.
“It’s a difficult season for him‚” said De Bruin. “He is such a team man. He’s so instrumental as a leader. Whenever Wazza [Whiteley] is with the pack he is instrumental.
“Malcolm had a good rest and we had the bye. Vincent was so good before he got injured. He trained well and is part of the future at this union.”
There is again a shift in midfield with Vorster returning at inside centre next to Lionel Mapoe.
“He was injured as well‚” De Bruin said. “He’s keen and ready to go again. He lost form. If you lose form the other guy must play. Lionel also lost form at some stage and look at how well he is playing now.”
Meanwhile‚ Ruan Combrinck has been included at fullback in the Golden Lions team to play the Valke‚ while regular No8 Hacjivah Dayimani has made the shift to inside centre.
“Commies [Combrinck] is an interesting guy‚” said De Bruin. “He is brilliant. He’s a bit off form. He knows it. He must fight for his position. If he’s good enough we’ll pick him‚ if he’s not we won’t.
“Hacjivah‚ we are going to play for 60 [minutes]‚ 70 minutes at centre. It is a thing we are looking at in the future.
“We have been in discussions with him and his agent and Rudolf [Straeuli‚ Lions CEO]. These things we don’t take lightly.
“All his attributes lead to him being a brilliant centre. I look at a player’s profile. Many years ago people said I shouldn’t move Beast [Mtawarira] from No8 to prop. I knew he would go nowhere at No8 so I moved him and now he’s the most capped loosehead prop.”
De Bruin conceded his team have not fired on all cylinders and that they needed greater consistency.
“We lost games I wasn’t happy with. We beat the Argies [Jagaures] for the first time home and away. We repeated the 2016 performance by beating the Chiefs in Hamilton.
“There are definite positives. I don’t even want to talk about the number of changes this team has had to undergo.
“We have a run of games at home now. I always compare it to golf. We’ve finished the first nine. We are in the race and are six points off the leaders.”
Lions team to play the Waratahs: Andries Coetzee; Courtnall Skosan‚ Lionel Mapoe‚ Harold Vorster‚ Aphiwe Dyantyi; Elton Jantjies‚ Ross Cronje; Warren Whiteley (captain)‚ Vincent Tshituka‚ Kwagga Smith; Marvin Orie‚ Stephan Lewies; Carlu Sadie‚ Malcolm Marx‚ Sti Sithole. Replacements: Jan-Henning Campher‚ Dylan Smith‚ Johannes Jonker‚ Wilhelm van der Sluys‚ Marnus Schoeman‚ Nic Groom‚ Shaun Reynolds‚ Tyrone Green.