Lions set to rotate for Perpignan
Rigours of the URC means spread of workload in Challenge Cup clash
The Lions will wring the changes for their Challenge Cup clash against Perpignan at Stade Aime Giral on Sunday.
Having seen his team clobber the Dragons 49-24 in their United Rugby Championship (URC) match at Ellis Park on Saturday, Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen will now rotate his squad for the Challenge Cup meeting with the team from the Pyrénées-Orientales.
The rigours of the URC in particular means the Lions will have to spread the workload and Van Rooyen is likely to use the bulk of his squad over a three-week stretch. They host the Newcastle Falcons on December 16.
In their pool two, round one clash on Sunday the Lions will be up against opposition who are second last on the points table having won just two of their nine matches.
Perpignan have been remarkably consistent having finished last season second.
Their latest setback came on Saturday when European champions La Rochelle handed them a 35-6 drubbing.
Spreading game time and perhaps re-energising his squad would have been Van Rooyen's main motivating factors for making wholesale changes.
“We started flat,” said the coach about the opening 20 minutes of their URC clash against the Dragons on Saturday. “[It is due to] The month away, the travel back and a busy week. We are probably going to rotate a little for the trip to France. Use the squad for this game on a Sunday afternoon. We will be flying on Wednesday and coming back next Tuesday night.
“We have prepared like that the past two, three weeks, so I think we are ready to go.”
The one drawback from making wholesale changes is the likely negative impact it will have to the momentum they've built in recent weeks. They delivered some creditable performances on tour before beating struggling Zebre upon their return to Ellis Park last weekend.
The win over the Dragons with just 14 players for the last 53 minutes would have further emboldened the Lions.
Van Rooyen will be desperate to see the Lions replicate the fight they showed against the Dragons after lock Ruben Schoeman was sent off with a red card.
“We want to be proud of our toughness, how together we are and the tempo that we play with. To see the guys still fight in minutes 70 and 75 says a lot of where we are in team cohesion and hopefully where we will be in this competition come May and June.”
Indeed the Lions had to spread themselves thin on a sticky afternoon at Ellis Park after Schoeman was banished.
Captain Marius Louw might have harboured hopes of a reprieve for the lock after his collision with visiting wing Ashton Hewitt. However, it was not to be.
Louw gave a diplomatic answer to the question whether reviews for foul play have become a lottery.
“We can only do what we do and leave it in the hands of the officials. We have to do what we can to avoid that. Keep them [the match officials] out of the game. It can't always happen. Sometimes you agree, other times not.”
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