Cash must be on the money for Rebels clash
The Lions have their backs against the wall ahead of their second Super Rugby tour match in Australasia, against the Rebels in Melbourne on Saturday, with questions being asked about several players and key performance areas.
They’ve also only managed one win in four matches and after this weekend’s match still have to face the Blues and Highlanders on tour.
Making life a little tougher for Van Rooyen, who’s in his first year in charge of the Lions and on his first tour in that role, is the fact he only has so many players to pick from right now.
The Lions toured with only 26 players, so each week only three men are not involved.
Backs Courtnall Skosan and Shaun Reynolds and veteran prop Jannie du Plessis didn’t feature at all against the Waratahs last weekend and while Skosan is almost sure to return to the side on the left wing this week, in place of Jamba Ulengo, it’ll be interesting to see whether Reynolds gets a chance and if so, how he is used.
Picked as the back-up flyhalf to captain Elton Jantjies, would Van Rooyen take a chance with Reynolds at flyhalf and shift Jantjies to inside centre - something the Lions coaching team did 12 months ago with great effect.
At the stage Gianni Lombard played at No 10, with Jantjies outside him, but he is injured, so Van Rooyen would have to create a new pairing of Reynolds and Jantjies if he were to make a big decision at 10-12, where Dan Kriel has so far played at inside centre.
And, will this be the week that Wandisile Simelane gets a starting chance at outside centre, in place of Manny Rass, who has worn the 13 on his back in the last two games.
Before him, Duncan Matthews played at outside centre, against the Jaguares and Reds, but he didn’t make the tour group.
Van Rooyen will also have to make a call at scrumhalf - does he again go for Andre Warner, who started against the Waratahs last week, or back the inexperienced but more dynamic Morne van den Berg again?
Unfortunately for the Lions, the experienced Ross Cronje had a late start to the season because of injury and wasn’t fit enough to tour, while Dillon Smit was overlooked and deemed surplus to requirements.
In the forwards there will be a change in the backrow because Vincent Tshituka has returned to Joburg because of an ankle injury that requires surgery, but who’ll actually run out in the loose-trio will only be revealed when Van Rooyen names his team.
Veteran Willem Alberts is an option at blindside flank, but then the speedy and skilful Hacjivah Dayimani, too, has been waiting for his chance to start.
It is unlikely that the just-arrived Ruan Vermaak (in place of Tshituka) will feature this week.
There could easily also be a change in the second row with Wilhelm van der Sluys coming in for a first start, while it is anyone’s guess who Van Rooyen will go with in the front-row.
After former World Cup winner and recent recruit Du Plessis battled in the scrums in his first few outings, will the Lions boss back him again now?
Van Rooyen will name his team for the Melbourne match tomorrow.