Marvin Orie has been the first-choice go-to man at lineout time, and also been a strong defender at close quarters for the Lions. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – The Lions have entered the business end of Super Rugby and have it all to do in their remaining five regular season games if they are to qualify for the playoffs.

Here rugby writer Jacques van der Westhuyzen highlights the key men who will play a major role in the coming weeks...

Warren Whiteley

Is it a coincidence or the presence of Warren Whiteley that the Lions won both of their recent matches when the No 8 was on the field and in charge?

Whiteley returned to action after seven weeks off due to injury to lead the team to a win against the Chiefs in Hamilton a few weeks ago, at a time when the Lions were experiencing a few troubles in the coaching ranks.

The No 8 then didn’t play against the Crusaders and the Lions lost, but this past weekend, Whiteley was back on the field and the team edged the Waratahs by a point.

He will be a key man in the next few weeks, as a player and team leader.

Marvin Orie

The Lions have certainly missed the hard graft of the now departed Franco Mostert, but Orie has stepped up big-time this season and taken charge of the second row.

He has been the first-choice go-to man at lineout time, and also been a strong defender at close quarters.

In fact, Orie is third on the competition list for lineout takes, and is his team’s best defender, too.

He is a man with plenty of experience and a bit of grunt, too, and will be a significant contributor in the coming weeks.

When Orie has been out of the mix because of injury – which fortunately hasn’t been often – the Lions haven’t been the same team.

Kwagga Smith

Injuries to several Lions loose forwards have prevented the team from having any sort of continuity this season and Smith has also spent his fair share of time on the sidelines.

He has also had to play musical chairs between No 8 and fetcher flank, which hasn’t helped him, but he has maintained a consistent high standard of performance which has helped the Lions stay on course for a playoff place this year, even if only just.

His adaptability has been a big plus-point, so the Lions will hope he stays fit from here on in.

His speed, work-rate and X-factor are going to make him a key player in the coming weeks.

Carlu Sadie

Statistically the Lions are South Africa’s best and most effective scrumming unit, having won 92% of their scrum feeds.

That’s a good effort considering they started this year’s campaign without their two big weapons of the recent past, Ruan Dreyer and Jacques van Rooyen, who are now playing abroad.

Also, Dylan Smith has spent a good deal of time on the injured list. Step up Sadie, the 22-year-old tighthead loan player from the Cape, as well as Sti Sithole, the loosehead.

They have come into their own in 2019, with Sadie especially good. He is a block of a man and has done brilliantly to anchor the Lions scrum. He must stay fit, too.

Elton Jantjies

The Lions coaching team has chopped and changed the side so regularly this season that Jantjies is the only backline player to have started every match so far, proving just what a vital element he is in the Lions team.

Calm and measured, Jantjies has enjoyed a good campaign without being flashy, and his experience and strong kicking game will be pivotal in the next few weeks.

Why he didn’t assume the team leadership when Whiteley went down is something only coach Swys de Bruin can answer.

Jantjies performing at his best will go a long way to help his team finish in the top eight for a place in the knockout rounds.

@jacq_west


The Star

Like IOL Sport on Facebook

Follow IOL Sport on Twitter