What would have been a tough decision was made easier yesterday when Lions midfielder Waylon Murray was ruled out of this weekend’s Currie Cup match against Western Province.
Had Murray not hurt his knee against the Sharks last weekend, Lions boss Johan Ackermann would have had to decide between Butch James and Elton Jantjies at flyhalf – but with Murray now out, Ackermann will simply move James into centre and hand Jantjies the No10 jersey.
The stocky Jantjies was released to play Currie Cup rugby by Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer at the weekend and Ackermann said yesterday he’d slot straight back into his side
“Look, I haven’t made a final call yet, but it’s pretty obvious that with Waylon out Butch will move to centre and Elton will come in at 10,” said Ackermann.
It is another blow for James, who started the Currie Cup in fine form and apparently told Ackermann he was focused on playing only at flyhalf during this year’s competition.
But there’s a strong chance Jantjies will travel with the Boks to Australasia later this month for the Rugby Championship matches against Australia and New Zealand, opening the door for James to again pull on the No10 jersey.
“It’s nice getting a guy of Elton’s class and ability back in the mix,” said Ackermann. “I feel for him that he didn’t go with the Boks to Argentina, but now we can use him. I’m sure Western Province will call on their Bok players – Juan de Jongh and Siya Kolisi – for the match.”
The one other Lions player who’s in serious doubt of being ready by the weekend is hooker Callie Visagie, who injured his ribs last weekend and will be given until tomorrow to prove his fitness.
If he is ruled out, Ackermann will in all probability call on Martin Bezuidenhout, who was dropped from the Lions squad last week and told to play club rugby, or bring in fit-again Bandise Maku. Francois du Toit will probably start in Visagie’s place.
Besides the injury-enforced swaps, there are not likely to be many changes to the side that went down to the Sharks last weekend, but Ackermann may decide to bring back some first choice stars through the bench.
Maku, Dyland Des Fountain and Michael Rhodes – all coming back after lengthy layoffs – played club rugby last week and may be ready to step up to Currie Cup action this weekend.
The Lions will be desperate to win again at the weekend after starting their campaign with a win and a loss, while Western Province are also one from two this season.