Tiaan Liebebenberg has been cleared to start for Western Province against the Lions at Ellis Park tomorrow night despite being found guilty of punching Griquas flanker Carel Greeff.
The abrasive hooker appeared at a judicial hearing on Tuesday after being cited for “striking another player with his arm, and attempting to strike the player with his fist” during last week’s 20-19 win in Kimberley.
The decision was deferred until yesterday, and advocate Andre Oosthuizen has subsequently opted to apply no sanction against Liebenberg based on factors including “his good disciplinary record to date”, the fact that Greeff was deemed to have “brought him to ground in a dangerous manner”, and evidence that the hooker lashed out in retaliation without intent to strike Greeff.
It’s a happy ending to an unwelcome distraction for Province as they prepare to face a Lions outfit that ran in six tries in the second half of last week’s 62-23 win against the Blue Bulls in Pretoria.
That victory marked the Lions’ first Currie Cup win of the season, but WP pack wrangler Matt Proudfoot doesn’t believe it was an anomaly.
“The Lions have to be taken seriously,” he told the Cape Argus yesterday. “I don’t care what Bulls team is on the field, to beat them by 40 points at Loftus Versfeld you have to have something about you.
“You can’t say that was just a poor Bulls performance. The Lions put them under pressure, and their maul was superb. A lot went right for them, but there is something about that team.”
Proudfoot singled out the Lions lineout for a special mention.
“Franco van der Merwe adds an edge that was missing when he wasn’t there. He gives them lineout dominance and that enables them to attack from the lineout, which they do well.
“For them to dominate the Bulls like they did, have a look at how many points they scored from the lineout, that’s where the 60 points came from.
“Franco adds a big edge to that side, and (No 8) Willie Britz is a good lineout forward and a good foil for Franco – he’s quick and Franco likes a quick (timed-ball) lineout (with jump-throws).”
A tactical solution for a team with an efficient attacking lineout is to kick long without putting the ball into touch, but Proudfoot is wary of the Lions’ return game.
“If you kick out against them, they’ve got a good lineout to launch from, but if you don’t kick against them, they counter well.”
Faced with this challenge, Province have ostensibly opted to combat the Lions’ strength in attacking the breakdown by fielding nuggety halfback Nic Groom rather than deploying Louis Schreuder to test how airtight the Joburg side’s exit strategy is. - Cape Argus