JOHANNESBURG - Don't expect any surprises from Johan Ackermann when he names his line-up later this week for Saturday’s all-important final round robin Super Rugby match against the Sharks in Durban.
Not even the return to fitness of star centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg is likely to sway the Lions coach from picking the tried and tested from recent weeks.
Ackermann is expected to name a familiar looking side, including Harold Vorster at inside centre and Lionel Mapoe at 13.
Janse van Rensburg may get a look-in on the bench, but he may also have to wait a little longer to make his return to Super Rugby action.
The burly and powerful Janse van Rensburg featured for around 20 minutes for the Golden Lions in their SuperSport Rugby Challenge match against Griquas on Sunday, but is believed to be short on match fitness and sharpness, which may keep him from turning out for Ackermann’s men this weekend.
Sunday’s match was the first outing for the inside centre since he hurt his knee against the Stormers some three months ago.
Before that, he was in sensational form for the Super Rugby outfit, but in his absence Vorster has stepped up and also played some sparkling rugby. He was recognised for his efforts with inclusion in the SA “A” team that played two matches against the French Barbarians.
With so much riding on the outcome of Saturday’s trip to Durban - more so if the Hurricanes beat the Crusaders earlier in the day, paving the way for the Lions to end top of the overall log should they beat the Sharks - Ackermann is unlikely to take a chance with Janse van Rensburg.
The Springbok No 12 himself also seems unsure whether he is ready to step up just yet.
He was quoted by the SuperSport website on Monday as saying: “It’s always difficult to come back from a knee injury because you never know how strong it is. But it was good being back on the field and taking that first carry.
“I’m still a bit rusty and see a lot of room for improvement.
“I now have to work hard to make the knee even stronger and get the confidence back.”
The Lions were back on the training ground for the first time in a week on Monday after having a bye last weekend. Ackermann will hope they are refreshed and rested after an arduous build-up to the run-in of Super Rugby where several players turned out for the Springboks and SA “A” side in June.
On top of that, Ackermann picked his strongest team to face the Sunwolves after the June break, and before their bye.
They got close to putting 100 points on the visitors from Japan and while the Sharks will present a far stiffer challenge than the Sunwolves, the Lions will still travel to Durban later this week the hot favourites.
They have lost just once in 14 games all season - against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires - and edged the inconsistent Sharks 34-29 when they met in the first match between the sides, in Johannesburg, on April 1.
A late Elton Jantjies penalty and Jaco Kriel try secured a tight win for the hosts on that occasion.
So, expect a familiar looking Lions team, with Ruan Ackermann continuing in his role at No 8 in place of the injured Warren Whiteley, with the only toss up in selection likely to be between Ross Cronje and Faf de Klerk at scrumhalf.