JOHANNESBURG - Lions boss Swys de Bruin will ask his players to stand up and show what they’re made of when they host the Crusaders in a round seven Super Rugby match at Ellis Park on Sunday.
The Lions go into the game on the back of two defeats in three outings - against the Blues and Jaguares - while they scraped home against the lowly Sunwolves of Japan in between the two defeats.
And Sunday’s visitors to Joburg are the same team the Lions lost to in last year’s final, at the same venue, and an outfit that have won the competition eight times.
“These windows of losing happen occasionally,” said De Bruin earlier this week, “But we’re still four from six and second in the standings. But what we need now is to show some real character against the Crusaders so we can get back on track.”
Indeed. The Lions won’t want another defeat now; especially with the Stormers heading up to Joburg next week.
But more than the character the players need to show to turn things around, De Bruin, too, will have to pick smartly this week. His team are in need of a shake-up, or at least a wake-up, ahead of this Sunday’s match and selecting the right men could be key in ensuring the kind of turn-around he’ll be hoping for.
The good news is the three players who weren’t able to tour to Argentina last week - Ross Cronje, Andries Ferreira and Jacobie Adriaanse - are all available this week, and should move straight into the matchday squad; the first two men straight into the starting team.
The tight-five almost picks itself should De Bruin use stand-in captain Franco Mostert as his No 5 lock, joining Ferreira and the front row of Ruan Dreyer, Jacques van Rooyen and Malcolm Marx. It is the make-up of the loose-trio, however, that will give De Bruin plenty to think about.
Mostert is an option at blindside flank - assuming Ferreira and Marvin Orie are the locks - with Kwagga Smith at six, but it’s anyone’s guess at this stage who’ll pack down at No 8. There’s Len Massyn, while rookie Willie Engelbrecht is also an option and Robert Kruger can also play there, if he shakes off a concussion sustained in Buenos Aires.
Also, Cyle Brink can play at six or seven, while Hacjivah Dayimani, of whom so much was expected, has been used - experimentally - on the wing in recent weeks, so it is uncertain whether he is an actual option for the coaching team or not.
At the back De Bruin needs to restore the midfield pairing of Harold Vorster - who didn’t feature against the Jaguares - and Lionel Mapoe, with Rohan Janse van Rensburg playing off the bench.
However, with hot-shot wing Aphiwe Dyantyi being ruled out of rugby for six weeks due to a pectoral muscle injury, the burly centre may just find himself back on the wing, where he turned out not too long ago.
“I’ll have a better idea of who’s available and who isn’t on Wednesday when we get together after having the early part of the week off,” said De Bruin just after the team arrived back from South America.
“There are some injury concerns, like Aphiwe, but I’ll only think about the team make-up later on.”
Centre Howard Mnisi, just back from spending the whole of 2017 on the sidelines, hurt his knee in Argentina, but may be available to play this week. Regular skipper Warren Whiteley - ruled out a few weeks ago with a knee problem - has a small chance of slipping back into the team this week, but will more likely only return next week or the week thereafter, according to De Bruin.