Lions planning to use the bench effectively when facing Bulls
Coach Ivan van Rooyen names six forwards and just two backs on the bench as they look to quell the inevitable forward assault of the men in blue
The Lions will generously press their bench into action in Saturday’s Currie Cup semifinal against the Blue Bulls at Loftus in Pretoria.
The match will kick off at 2pm, just as the temperature is expected to peak at 34°C, and it will require the load to be shared among the squad.
To that end, the Lions have named six forwards and just two backs on the bench as they hope to quell the forward assault of the Blue Bulls‚ who have dominated their opposition upfront since rugby resumed in September.
Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen‚ a fitness fundi‚ is excited that the match will have this extra lung-busting that is almost sadistic.
“Of our last five‚ six games‚ the only dry one was against Free State‚” said Van Rooyen.
“So we are excited to get a 2pm kickoff. It will be warm. The bench will play a role. That’s why we went six-two. Hopefully the guys are tired after 50 or 60 minutes because then we know we are getting stuck in. The plan is to use the bench and to use it early as well‚” he said.
As expected, the Lions have opted to start with veteran Jannie du Plessis at tighthead while Carlu Sadie is expected to be on the field sooner rather than later after the break.
On the other side of the scrum, Sti Sithole got the nod ahead of Dylan Smith, who passed a fitness test but still has a niggling hamstrung. Sithole may have a thing or two to prove.
“Sti was in the squad for the previous match against the Bulls, having just come back from injury. We smashed him with fitness tests on the Monday and Tuesday but unfortunately he pulled up with a tight back in the warm-up before the game.
“Dylan has a slightly pulled hamstring. He passed his fitness test but we went with Sti and Ruan [Dreyer‚ on the bench].”
Though the Bulls boast experience throughout their ranks‚ the Lions have their own grizzled men. Du Plessis‚ lock Willem Alberts‚ flank Jaco Kriel‚ flyhalf Elton Jantjies and wing Courtnall Skosan have all played at the highest level and are used to the fiery furnace.
“It certainly helps having senior players in certain positions. We talked about different scenarios and different decisions it will require. We are excited to see how the senior players make decisions‚” said Van Rooyen.
Not that their green horns will not have a role to play. Fullback Tiaan Schoeman hoofs the ball jaw-dropping distances and he may drop into the action at crucial times.
“Tiaan has been playing well‚” noted captain Elton Jantjies. “Kicking is one of his strengths. As a backline, we try to find balance in the way we use it. It is definitely something that we will use.”
He pointed out that the team “had a massive review of our last game against the Bulls and some positives came out of that game”.
Lions: Tiaan Swanepoel; Stean Pienaar‚ Wandisile Simelane‚ Burger Odendaal‚ Courtnall Skosan; Elton Jantjies (captain)‚ André Warner; Len Massyn‚ Vincent Tshituka‚ Jaco Kriel; Marvin Orie‚ Willem Alberts; Jannie du Plessis‚ Jaco Visagie‚ Sti Sithole. Replacements: Jan-Henning Campher‚ Ruan Dreyer‚ Carlu Sadie‚ Reinhard Nothnagel‚ Wilhelm van der Sluys‚ Morné van den Berg‚ Dan Kriel‚ Francke Horn‚ Nathan McBeth‚ EW Viljoen‚ Ross Cronjé.
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