JOHANNESBURG - Lions boss Swys de Bruin has picked a starting team including 12 Springboks to take on the Crusaders in Saturday’s Super Rugby final in Christchurch.
Another Bok player, wing Aphiwe Dyantyi, has to be happy with a place on the bench after hurting his hamstring in the semi-final win against the Waratahs last weekend. Dyantyi’s place in the starting team is taken by the more experienced and fully-fit Courtnall Skosan, who came on as a replacement last Saturday.
In the only other change to the run-on side that faced the Waratahs, flank Cyle Brink, who missed the game because of a shoulder problem, returns to make up the first-choice back row which also includes captain Warren Whiteley and man of the match from a week ago, Kwagga Smith.
The defending champions and hosts this weekend; the Crusaders, also have a familiar look about them, but coach Scott Robertson has been forced to make a few changes, too. In place of the injured flank Jordan Taufua comes in Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, a player who wasn’t even contracted to the franchise at the start of the season.
Also, among the replacements Robertson will wait until Friday before settling on the back-up hooker to Codie Taylor. The injured Andrew Makalio has apparently made good progress this week, but if he fails a fitness test, the Crusaders will have to go with the untried Sam Anderson-Heather for the final.
Robertson said on Thursday one of the hardest decisions he has had to make as a coach was leaving veteran prop Wyatt Crockett out of the matchday squad. Crockett, who made his debut in 2006, has played over 200 games for the Crusaders and will retire after Saturday’s final. The match kicks off at 9.35am SA time Saturday.
Crusaders team: David Havili, Seta Tamanivalu, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, George Bridge, Richie Mo’unga, Bryn Hall, Kieran Read, Matt Todd, Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, Sam Whitelock (capt), Scott Barrett, Owen Franks, Codie Taylor, Joe Moody. Replacements: Sam Anderson-Heather/Andrew Makalio, Tim Perry, Michael Alaalatoa, Luke Romano, Pete Samu, Mitchell Drummond, Mitchell Hunt, Braydon Ennor
Lions team: Andries Coetzee, Ruan Combrinck, Lionel Mapoe, Harold Vorster, Courtnall Skosan, Elton Jantjies, Ross Cronje, Warren Whiteley (capt), Cyle Brink, Kwagga Smith, Franco Mostert, Marvin Orie, Ruan Dreyer, Malcolm Marx, Jacques van Rooyen. Replacements: Corne Fourie, Dylan Smith, Johannes Jonker, Lourens Erasmus, Marnus Schoeman, Dillon Smit, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Howard Mnisi