JOHANNESBURG – Bring it on; we want to measure ourselves against only the best!
That was the message of Lions coach Swys de Bruin on Thursday when quizzed about the make-up of the Cheetahs team for Saturday’s final round Currie Cup match against the Lions.
It is virtually a win-or-bust game for both teams, with places in the last four up for grabs.
The Cheetahs have been boosted by the fact the PRO14 competition is on a two-week break and the defending champions have been able to pick their strongest team, including several Super Rugby stars and men who until last week were playing in one of Europe’s most elite competitions.
But De Bruin is unfazed by the decision of Cheetahs head coach Rory Duncan to pick the likes of Raymond Rhule, Rosko Specman, Nico Lee, William Small-Smith, Oupa Mohoje, Paul Schoeman and Torsten van Jaarsveld for the match, which kicks off at 5.15pm.
“We want to measure ourselves against the best... especially this young team of ours,” said De Bruin on Thursday. “I’ve got no problem with the Cheetahs selection... in fact we’d be disappointed if we were to be running out against a B or C team. This is going to be a great challenge for us.”
But it’s not only the Cheetahs who’ve been able to strengthen their side.
The Lions, too, have been bolstered by the return of several of their Springbok players and a few men who missed last week’s match against Western Province because of injury and illness.
De Bruin has included backs Andries Coetzee, Courtnall Skosan and Ross Cronjé in the run-on side and hooker Malcolm Marx on the bench.
Prop Jacobie Adriaanse and flank Cyle Brink are also back in the starting team after missing out last Sunday.
Bok No 3 Ruan Dreyer, though, will sit out the match.
“Ruan’s got a bit of a rib problem, but it’s great having the other guys back,” said the Lions boss.
“You could see in training on Tuesday already, there was a sense of urgency among the players. And, with the brotherhood we have created here at the Lions, it’s like the team’s brothers came home this week.
“The Boks are all eager to start and play, but we had to box clever and that is why Malcolm is on the bench.
“We know these players will always give their all for the team, and it’s good for us knowing we have them all available now for as long as we remain in the competition.”
In one of the significant changes to the side that ran out last weekend, Jaco van der Walt replaces Ashlon Davids at 10.
“It’s a tactical decision,” explained De Bruin. “Ashlon is a good youngster who is a running flyhalf, and he’ll come off the bench for us this week and make an impact. Jaco, though, has always done well for us at 10 in the big games.”
Meanwhile, the Lions confirmed on Thursday that lock Franco Mostert, who is currently playing for his club in Japan, will remain a Lions player until at least the end of Super Rugby next year.
The Bok lock is believed to be on the shopping list of English club Bristol.
“He’s contracted with us until then, so he’s one of ours, he’s one of our best,” said De Bruin.
Teams For Ellis Park
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 13 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Len Massyn, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Jacques van Rooyen (captain).
Bench: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Dylan Smith, 18 Rhyno Herbst, 19 Robert Kruger/Hacjivah Dayimani, 20 Marco Jansen van Vuren, 21 Ashlon Davids, 22 Sylvian Mahuza.
Cheetahs: 15 Raymond Rhule, 14 Rosko Specman, 13 Nico Lee, 12 William Small-Smith, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Ernst Stapelberg, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Oupa Mohoje, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld (captain), 1 Charles Marais.
Bench: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Rynier Bernardo, 19 Junior Pokomela, 20 Shaun Venter, 21 Ali Mgijima, 22 Luther Obi.