JOHANNESBURG - New Bulls boss John Mitchell isn’t the only man who’ll be coming up against his former team at Ellis Park on Saturday; Lions assistant coach Victor Matfield will also be up against a group of men who he knows pretty well.
It’s of course the big trans-Jukskei derby with both the Lions and the Bulls desperate to register another Currie Cup victory as they look to bank as many wins as possible with the games in the round-robin phase running out quickly. Both teams have recorded only three wins so far.
While the experienced Mitchell is now the main man in Pretoria, like he was in Joburg between 2010 and 2012, former Bulls hero Matfield is only in the infancy of his coaching career with the Lions. He’s, however, enjoying his time at his new home.
“These Lions youngsters want to learn and get better so that makes the job pretty easy,” said forwards coach Matfield. “They like to take it all in, so that makes it enjoyable for me.
“It’s going to be great playing against my old team, especially because this is nearly a must-win game for us.”
Matfield, who is hoping to have a long career in the coaching ranks after becoming one of the greatest locks in the game, added it was important for his development to learn from a variety of different coaches.
“I spent a long time in the same environment at the Bulls and you get stuck doing things the same way, over and over," he said.
“Now I’ve got a chance to learn from other people and to see things differently ... how Swys (de Bruin) and the guys here think of the tight-five, attack, defence.”
One man Matfield and head coach De Bruin are extremely pleased is back from a long injury layoff is loosehead prop Dylan Smith. One of the almost forgotten men of the Lions’ success story of the last few years returns to action this weekend after hurting his shoulder in March. He’ll sit on the bench, alongside fellow prop Johannes Jonker, giving the Lions front-row options on the bench.
“It’s wonderful to have him back,” said De Bruin. “He’s still a young guy (23), but he’s a leader up front and a real inspiration to the others in the team ... he’s a team man. To have him and our captain Jacques van Rooyen to play at loosehead is fantastic.”
In the only change to the starting team that beat Griquas last weekend, lock Andries Ferreira returns after the birth of his second child this week, while on the bench flyhalf Shaun Reynolds gets an opportunity.
De Bruin said the Bulls would be tough. “They’re a bit of an unknown quantity now that they’re under John Mitchell’s guidance, but we all know how much experience he’ll bring to the team.
“We’re going to have to be very sharp if we’re to beat them ... they’re a dangerous team right now and have the ability to click at any time.”
Kick-off tomorrow is 5.15pm.
Lions team: Jaco van der Walt, Sylvian Mahuza, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Harold Vorster, Anthony Volmink, Ashlon Davids, Marco Jansen van Vuuren, Ryan Kankowski, Cyle Brink, Kwagga Smith, Marvin Orie, Andries Ferreira, Jacobie Adriaanse, Robbie Coetzee, Jacques van Rooyen (capt); Replacements: Pieter Jansen, Dylan Smith, Johannes Jonker, Robert Kruger, Fabian Booysen, Shaun Reynolds, Aphiwe Dyantyi