Mitchell upbeat despite Lions’ injury woes
Lions mentor John Mitchell believes the spate of injuries affecting his side this year could ultimately be a blessing in disguise.
Mitchell on Thursday made four changes to the team which faces the Stormers in a Super Rugby match at Ellis Park on Saturday.
“It is unusual to have 33 percent of our player-list injured – which is 11 players,” Mitchell said.
“I guess 10 of those players would be considered as frontliners, so it is an unusual circumstance to be in.
“However, that is what we are dealt with and you can't control or worry about broken bones and ligaments that get twisted.”
He said there were some positives they could take out of the otherwise dire situation.
“The new players are integrating into a new team and they are going to get the necessary experiential learning that over time is going to bring us success again,” he said.
“It is a very healthy situation and we are fortunate to have been able to prepare with this team since last Friday knowing the circumstances.”
The Lions lost their encounter against the Sharks a fortnight ago and would hope to turn the corner against the Stormers.
“We are fully aware of the challenge ahead and clearly the Stormers deserve to be at the top of the conference, so we are looking forward to it,” Mitchell said.
The coach shifted regular fullback Jaco Taute to outside centre with Doppies la Grange moving to his inside. Taute’s place will be filled by James Kamana.
“We don't really have any outside centres left, so Jaco has clearly played a lot there,” said Mitchell about his decision to shift the talented youngster.
Mitchell was forced to change his midfield combination after Alwyn Hollenbach was injured.
Newcomer Andries Coetzee will make his debut in Super Rugby with Michael Killian shifting out of the starting XV onto the bench.
“Andre Coetzee is actually an outstanding footballer. He's got a left foot, he is very quick and he can play in numerous positions in the backline.”
The Lions have a new half-back combination with Butch James partnering the Pumas scrumhalf Tian Meyer, who replaces Michael Bondesio.
Lions team: James Kamana, Deon van Rensburg, Jaco Taute, Doppies la Grange, Andries Coetzee, Butch James, Tian Meyer, Warren Whiteley, Joshua Strauss (captain), Derick Minnie, Franco van der Merwe, Marius Coetzer, Patric Cilliers, Callie Visagie, Caylib Oosthuizen.
Replacements: Martin Bezuidenhout, Jacobie Adriaanse, Stephan Greeff, Cobus Grobbelaar, Ross Cronje, Michael Killian, Ruan Combrinck. – Sapa