JOHANNESBURG – Lions boss Swys de Bruin has, as expected, wasted no time in bringing back available-again flanker Kwagga Smith.
The dynamic loose forward is back in the Lions team after sitting out the last four weeks following the serving out of a ban for a dangerous tackle in the Super Rugby final a month ago.
Smith’s inclusion in the run-on side for the trip to Kimberley for the Currie Cup match against Griquas on Friday is one of several changes to the team that edged the Pumas last Saturday.
In fact, De Bruin has opted for a far more experienced side for the round-eight clash, with Jaco van der Walt, Anthony Volmink and Jacobie Adriaanse coming into the side, while centre Harold Vorster also returns (for Manuel Rass) after a week off.
Other rookies Hacjivah Dayimani, Madosh Tambwe and Bradley Thain, who did duty against the Pumas, have been relegated to the Under-21 side for their clash with the Blue Bulls at Ellis Park on Friday afternoon.
It is Smith’s availability that will give the Lions their biggest boost. The former Sevens specialist, who is playing more 15-man rugby nowadays, will bring pace, skill and X-factor to the Lions pack.
Joining the list of unavailable players for De Bruin to pick from this week are lock Andries Ferreira, whose wife is expecting the couple’s second child, and prop Corné Fourie, who broke his wrist last weekend and is expected to be out of rugby for the remainder of the competition.
De Bruin said the Griquas side would start as big favourites on their home field – a place the Lions coach knows well, having coached the men from the Northern Cape between 1999 and 2003.
“If you look at recent form, then Griquas must be the favourites,” said De Bruin on Tuesday.
The returning Smith – who called the four weeks on the sidelines “very frustrating” – said Griquas were always tough to beat in Kimberley.
“It’s always hard going there. They know that field very well, and when you consider the form they’ve been in, then we’re in for a tough challenge.”
Griquas were pipped 44-42 by the Blue Bulls at Loftus last weekend to be left in sixth place on the log, while the Lions picked up just their second win when they edged the Pumas 29-28 at Ellis Park.
Just a point separate these teams, with the Lions seventh (15 points) and Griquas sixth (16).
In their round-one clash on July 29, the Lions triumphed 48-43 at Ellis Park – their only other victory of the campaign, besides last week’s win against the Pumas. Kickoff on Friday is 7.15pm.
15 Jaco van der Walt, 14 Sylvian Mahuza, 13 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Ashlon Davids, 9 Marco Jansen van Vuuren, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Rhyno Herbst, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Jacques van Rooyen (captain).
Bench: 16 Pieter Jansen, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Robert Kruger, 20 Fabian Booysen, 21 Branco du Preez, 22 Aphiwe Dyantyi.