Wiehahn Herbst into the starting line-up for Lions clash against Pumas
If it ain't broke, why fix it?
That seems to be the mindset of coach Ivan van Rooyen after he announced his matchday 23 to face the Pumas on Saturday (kick off 2pm). The Xerox Lions will travel to Nelspruit with virtually a full strength line-up, forgoing any discussion surrounding sending a second-string side, or rotating the squad for the Lowveld encounter, in an effort to field the strongest possible line-up four days later against the Blue Bulls.
It seems from this point of view that the Joburgers have arguably one objective in mind this weekend - collect a full house of points against a desperate Pumas, although Van Rooyen stopped short of declaring as much. Five points will no doubt boost the Lions' chances of securing an all-important play-off berth, and give them room to maneuver on Wednesday night when they face the Bulls at Loftus Versveld.
The Lions currently hold onto third in the standings on 29 points, two points behind the Western Province and a point ahead of the Sharks. Those two coastal sides have a final appointment with one another on the last weekend of the Carling Currie Cup, and it is not improbable that one of those teams could well be dumped out after the tournament after that encounter. The WP also have a must-win game this weekend against the Cheetahs - currently on 26 points - and a slip up in Bloemfontein could see the Lions and Sharks overtake them in the log, with the possibility of the Free Staters closing the gap. Pressure is, therefore, mounting on all five teams to win every match, while hoping their opponents err over the coming two weekends.
Van Rooyen has made only slight tweaks to his team, the biggest of which is introducing prop Wiehahn Herbst in place of Jannie du Plessis into his starting XV. It will be the 32-year-old's debut in the Currie Cup this season.
Said the coach yesterday from the training field: "Wiehahn is getting his first start … Jannie has really played the last two games, so it is just a bit of rotation there. Carlu (Sadie) is also back after his wedding."
Elsewhere, Van Rooyen has made limited changes to his bench. Including the aforementioned Sadie, Manuel Rass will cover the midfield from the sideline after it was revealed that Burger Odendaal is nursing a slight injury. Marnus Schoeman also comes into the side as a replacement with the good news that Vincent Tshituka is fit to play this weekend and will return to his starting position at the side of the scrum.
"Mannie is on the bench as Burger has a slight calf bump this week and we don't think it is worth the risk to risk him," said the coach.
"Marnus is getting his opportunity off of the bench and we are excited to see what (he) can bring for us. He has been training well … it is his turn. The rest is pretty similar. It is the same side of the last two, three weeks. It is congested on the log - there are five teams competing for four spots and we will get to next week. We first need to finish this game against the Pumas, so we are fully determined to go down there."
Lions Starting XV: Tiaan Swanepoel; Stean Pienaar, Wandisile Simelane, Dan Kriel, Cournall Skosan; Elton Jantjies (captain), André Warner; Len Massyn, Vincent Tshituka, Jaco Kriel, Marvin Orie, Willem Alberts, Wiehahn Herbst, Jaco Visagie, Dylan Smith; Replacements: Jan-Henning Campher, Ruan Dreyer, Carlu Sadie, Reinhard Nothnagel, Wilhelm van der Sluys, Morné van den Berg, Manuel Rass, Marnus Schoeman
Pumas staring XV: 15 Tapiwa Mafura, 14 Luther Obi, 13 Erich Cronje, 12 Ali Mgijima, 11 Etienne Taljaard, 10 Devon Williams, 9 Ginter Smuts, 8 Willie Engelbrecht, 7 Phumzile Maqondwana, 6 Daniel Maartens, 5 Pieter Jansen van Vuren (captain), 4 Darrien Landsberg, 3 Ignatius Prinsloo, 2 Simon Westraadt, 1 Morgan Naude; Replacements: 16 AJ le Roux, 17 Eduan Swart, 18 Brandon Valentyn, 19 Francois Kleinhans, 20 Chriswill September, 21 Tiaan Botes, 22 Alwayno Visagie, 23 Wayne van der Bank.