JOHANNESBURG - If they’re up for a game of rugby, Swys de Bruin won’t hesitate to pick his returning Springboks for Saturday’s “second quarter-final” against the Cheetahs at Ellis Park.
The Lions, in fourth place in the Currie Cup standings, edged WP in their “first quarter-final” on Sunday to stay in the race for a semi-finals spot, but they will have to get the better of the Cheetahs this weekend, too, to book their place in the last four.
Boosting the Lions’ chances will be the fact De Bruin can significantly strengthen his side with prop Ruan Dreyer, hooker Malcolm Marx, scrumhalf Ross Cronje, wing Courtnall Skosan and fullback Andries Coetzee all available for the match - and possibly the playoffs stage as well.
“They’re all contracted with us, so I’m definitely going to use all of them for the rest of the competition,” said De Bruin after his side beat Western Province on Sunday. “I know what type of character they all are ... I’ll phone them and check with them, but I’m sure they’ll want to play.”
Marx may be the one man SA Rugby insist gets a rest, especially as he now holds a dual contract with the Lions and the Saru, who can make a call on the playing times of these players. The in-form hooker though was at Ellis Park on Sunday afternoon to watch his teammates fight back to beat WP and he is said to be very keen to keep going.
The Lions’ other Bok players, Elton Jantjies and Franco Mostert, will head to Japan for club commitments there before returning for Super Rugby at the end of January. The other Bok stars, Warren Whiteley and Jaco Kriel are injured, while Lionel Mapoe is already playing in Japan. Ruan Combrinck, who is also based in Japan at the moment, is injured and out for the year while the future of prop Julian Redelinghuys, who broke his neck almost a year ago in the Currie Cup semi-finals, is still uncertain.
De Bruin is desperate to see his side into the playoffs, especially after the Lions started the Currie Cup on the back foot while still playing in the Super Rugby knockout rounds.
“We’ve caught up to the others, so all the teams are now on an even footing. Beating Province was like a first quarter-final for us, but we’ve got another one coming up against the Cheetahs,” said De Bruin.
“It’s going to be interesting to see what team the Cheetahs put out this week as they can pick their strongest team because the Pro14 competition is on a break. But that said, changing too much now might disrupt them, especially as they won’t be able to pick their best team should they get to the final because the Pro14 is back on at that stage.
“Either way, we’re ready for whatever team comes to Ellis Park. We’re in the home stretch and have to win all our remaining games.”
The two props who missed the WP game because of stomach ailments, Jacobie Adriaanse and Johannes Jonker, are also expected to return.
The Lions took the day off yesterday to recover and return to the training field today.