Lions boss Johan Ackermann will use tomorrow night’s outing against the Springbok-laden Sharks as a final opportunity to test combinations ahead of his team’s re-entry to Super Rugby this year.
While Ackermann may have a good idea who his best players are, and who he wants to use against the Cheetahs in their competition opener next Saturday, injuries to two key players as well as the return to full fitness of other players means the team that will do duty at Ellis Park tomorrow will be a largely experimental one.
The injury suffered by dynamic fullback Andries Coetzee last weekend means the No15 jersey still has to be filled, with Pumas player Coenie van Wyk this week recalled to Lions training and now seemingly in a race with Ruan Combrink to start against the Cheetahs next weekend. Both are in line to get a run tomorrow.
Of course, there is the option of shifting Marnitz Boshoff to fullback – a position he played in regularly last year when Elton Jantjies started at flyhalf – and start with young Willie du Plessis at 10.
There is also a chance Pumas scrumhalf Faf de Klerk gets a start tomorrow, in place of Michael Bondesio.
And, the injury suffered by lock Rudi Mathee has forced Ackermann to look at the likes of Franco Mostert, Martin Muller, Chris van Zyl and possibly even Willie Britz as second row partner to Franco van der Merwe.
Elsewhere, the Lions boss is expected to push a new midfield pairing into the field against the formidable Sharks duo of Frans Steyn and Paul Jordaan, with Alwyn Hollenbach and Stokkies Hanekom getting a chance, while the front row that will face the Cheetahs next week is far from finalised.
Ackermann will only name his squad for the Sharks match today.
The heavy rains on Monday meant the Lions didn’t train at all and only had one session on Tuesday.
The players had the day off yesterday and will train again today before Ackermann settles on his line-up.
Tomorrow evening’s match will be the Lions’ last before taking on the Cheetahs in their Super Rugby opener next Saturday.
Meanwhile, Lions bosses are still trying to secure a title sponsor ahead of the start of the new season.
Union CEO Manie Booysen said the Lions are close to finalising “a number of deals”, which they hope to conclude, and announce, by early next week. It is understood, though, that certain sponsorship agreements may be split between Super Rugby and the Currie Cup. - The Star