Elton Jantjies of the Emirates Lions during the match against the Sharks at Kings Park. Photo: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Lions boss Swys de Bruin all of a sudden has a tough decision to make regarding his flyhalf: Does he stick with the rookie Shaun Reynolds or recall Springbok Elton Jantjies?

With Reynolds at 10 last Saturday, the Lions produced arguably their best performance of the season when they ran in six tries to beat the Stormers 41-22 in a round 16 game at Ellis Park. It was their first win against South African opposition this year and ensured the three-time runners-up remained in the hunt to play in the knockout rounds later on.

Jantjies had been dropped from the squad after breaching team protocol in Durban the week before.

But, the veteran Lions man, who has amassed over 1000 Super Rugby points, trained fully with his team-mates yesterday and according to a team spokesman is available for selection this week.

While Jantjies’ experience, distribution, and kicking game are big pluses, 23-year-old Reynolds didn’t put a foot wrong against the Stormers and De Bruin could rightly ask himself, why change a winning team?

Shaun Reynolds of the Lions on his way to scoring a try during the recent match against the Highlanders at Ellis Park. Photo: Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix
Shaun Reynolds of the Lions on his way to scoring a try during the recent match against the Highlanders at Ellis Park. Photo: Christiaan Kotze/BackpagePix

Last Saturday at Ellis Park, fullback Andries Coetzee regularly found himself at first receiver, in a game in which he scored a try and showed why he became a Springbok in 2016, while Harold Vorster and Ross Cronje also filled in at 10 at times.

One suspects though Jantjies will be back in the hot seat. It is a big game, against a big team in the Hurricanes, and the Lions will want their best men on the field.

With no further injuries picked up during the Stormers game, De Bruin will have a near full-strength squad to pick from this week, with the only change likely to come at flyhalf.

One area the Lions would have especially focused yesterday and today at training is the breakdown, with De Bruin suggesting ruck-time could play a key role in the fixture this weekend.

“I watched the Hurricanes’ game against the Sharks in Durban on Saturday and, wow, they were fantastic. They’re very hard on the rucks. I’m going to have to go and see if everything is legal, but we’ll have to man up this week before we play them.”

The good news for the Lions though is loose-forwards Kwagga Smith and Vincent Tshituka had outstanding games against the Stormers, while Cyle Brink has the strength and power to match anything the likes of Ardie Savea and Co throw at them.

Also Malcolm Marx, Dylan Smith, Carlu Sadie, Stephan Lewies and Marvin Orie are in their best form this year.

The Lions will go into the game in second place in the SA Conference and look to solidify their place in the top eight and play-off places.

The Hurricanes, too, are in second place in the New Zealand Conference and will be desperate to win to keep the pressure on the leading team there, the defending champions, the Crusaders.

There is just one round of matches to be played after this weekend.

@jacq_west

 

The Star

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