JOHANNESBURG – Having to make some tough selection choices each week has been a recurring theme for Lions boss Swys de Bruin this year.
And it is no different this week, ahead of his team’s final regular season Super Rugby game against the Bulls at Loftus on Saturday. Injuries to several key players and the potential to select Springbok flyhalf Elton Jantjies means De Bruin will again have some head-scratching to do before naming his team for the match. And what an important fixture it is.
The Bulls, in fifth place, and the Lions in sixth are just about assured of their place in the top eight - and playoffs - but if things go horribly wrong for one of them on Saturday and results favour a few other teams one of the Gauteng sides could miss out completely. It’s that close in the race for the final quarter-final places.
Fresh injuries to Lions loose-forward Kwagga Smith (hamstring), lock Stephan Lewies (knee) and prop Sti Sithole (hamstring) - who will all miss this weekend’s match in Pretoria and probably the playoff games, too, if the Lions get there - mean De Bruin has to quickly find suitable back-up players who will move into the team without too much disruption.
Lewies and Sithole both missed out against the Hurricanes last weekend, with Reinhard Nothnagel and Nathan McBeth getting a run, but De Bruin might consider a few more experienced players for the trip to Pretoria. Last weekend’s match was Nothnagel’s first at this level and he only got into the team on Friday when Lewies went down.
With Warren Whiteley still injured, De Bruin will probably include Hacjivah Dayimani in place of Smith, but James Venter and Ruan Vermaak will also be options for him to consider. What is certain though is the Lions won’t be close to being at full-strength at this late and crucial stage of the season.
Injury Update— Emirates Lions (@LionsRugbyCo) June 10, 2019
- @stizzle101- hamstring, should be ready next week.
- @lewies4 - left knee, to be reassessed next week.
- @SmithKwagga - hamstring, he will take no further part in VSR.#LionsPride pic.twitter.com/5mIS0v1Hyg
The other big call De Bruin has to make is at flyhalf.
Shaun Reynolds has performed well at No 10 in the last two matches but with so much on the line on Saturday and with the Bulls being led by Handre Pollard at No 10, there may just be enough reasons for the Lions to again back their experienced Bok flyhalf.
Or, as was the case when Gianni Lombard was fit and ran out at No 10 and Jantjies played at 12 on occasion, De Bruin could keep both Reynolds and Jantjies in the starting team this week, with Harold Vorster moving to the bench.@jacq_west