JOHANNESBURG - It’s unlikely that the Pumas have ever arrived at Ellis Park and been the favourites to beat the Golden Lions. Well, they’ll be exactly that if you believe Lions coach Swys de Bruin.
De Bruin is under no illusions about the task ahead for his team this weekend when the teams meet in round seven of the Currie Cup on Saturday. His team are coming off a last-gasp loss to the Free State Cheetahs - their fifth in six outings, while the Pumas are riding high following their 51-15 annihilation of the Blue Bulls on Friday.
In fact, the Pumas are one of the form teams in this year’s competition, having won three of their six games and sit in fourth place on the standings at the halfway stage.
And having run in eight tries against the Bulls, who are now coached by John Mitchell, it’s no surprise that De Bruin is a little wary of the threat the visitors will pose this weekend.
“They were deadly against the Bulls, plain and simple,” said De Bruin. “We’re the underdogs for sure going into the match. The thing is the Pumas, like Griquas, haven’t had any disruptions. They were able to have a pre-competition work-out and have built some momentum.
“Those two teams are backing themselves against teams like us, who are missing a few players. We know the Pumas will be waiting for us. They’ll be excited ... but so are we. It should be a good match.”
With a few former and current on-loan Lions players in the Pumas side, like hooker Mark Pretorius, prop Pieter Scholtz and flank Lambert Groenewald, the side from Nelspruit will believe they can beat another big team, like they did the Bulls.
The Lions though produced arguably their best performance of the tournament against the Cheetahs last weekend and only lost the tie in the dying stages when Sergeal Petersen found his way through the defence to score the winner in the 82nd minute.
But there were encouraging signs from the new-look side, with several young players standing out, among them flyhalf Ashlon Davids, flank Hacjivah Dayimani and outside back Aphiwe Dyantyi.
Asked if it was time to give the promising game-breakers like Dayimani and Dyantyi a start, De Bruin said it was something to consider, but unlikely.
“They’ve done so well for us off the bench one’s tempted to keep them there to make an impact,” he said. “Also, we must remember they’re only 20-years-old; they’re babies. I think for now the 20 to 30 minutes they’re getting will be very valuable, for us and them.”
With 19 first-choice players already missing, the Lions may also lose the likes of Cyle Brink (concussion), Antony Volmink (concussion) and James Venter (ankle) this week. De Bruin will name his team to face the Pumas on Thursday.