JOHANNESBURG – The Lions are back to Currie Cup action this week, and it gets no tougher than a trip to Newlands to face a hurting Western Province.
Ivan van Rooyen’s men were last in action nearly two weeks ago when they hosted, and beat, the Pumas (38-37)in the opening game of this year’s competition. They had a bye last week, while Western Province have won once and lost once, so it’s all set up to be a thrilling clash on Saturday.
And if recent results are anything to go by John Dobson’s men will probably start as the favourites on home soil, despite their going down 32-27 in a tight game to the Sharks in Durban this last weekend. In round one they beat the Bulls 20-5 at Newlands.
In last year’s match between the Capetonians and the Lions, at Ellis Park, it was the visitors who got up and hammered the then recent Super Rugby finalists 65-38. In 2017, the last time the Currie Cup Lions visited the Cape, Western Province also dished out a hiding - winning 39-3 on that occasion.
A rusty Lions team then, following their bye and almost miraculous come-from-behind win against the Pumas two weekends ago, will hope for a better return this weekend, but they’re going to be up against a team that will want to make up for last week’s loss to the Sharks. Also, they’ve been boosted by the availability again of a few real stars, in outside backs Dillyn Leyds and Sergeal Petersen.
And it was those two men who did a lot of the damage in this fixture last season, in Joburg. They both scored two tries in the nine-try-to-five romp to help put their team on course for the final they would play later in the competition.
It is, however, not just Western Province who have received a shot in the arm with the availability of some formerly unavailable players this week, but the Lions, too.
While Van Rooyen’s young team in round one was, and will continue to be, very much an experimental line-up, following the departure of several seasoned men in recent weeks, he’ll hopefully have two star flankers back this week. Both Hacjivah Dayimani and Cyle Brink missed the round one game against the Pumas, but could be back in action this weekend.
Their availability could force Van Rooyen into some out-of-the-box selections this weekend, with Dayimani possibly being considered for a place among the backs, in the centres or on the wing, or Vincent Tshituka, who wore the No 7 on his back against the Pumas, could be utilised in the second row.
The other two loose-forwards from the Pumas game - James Venter and Marnus Schoeman - are almost certain of keeping their places in the match-day squad.
Van Rooyen will name his team for the Newlands trip today.@jacq_west