JOHANNESBURG - The Lions have admitted they are feeling the effects of a four-week tour of Australasia but said they have “a job to do” against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday.
A win would give the Joburg side a 50 percent record on tour after earlier beating the Waratahs in Sydney. But back-to-back defeats against the Reds and Hurricanes have increased the pressure on the SA Conference leaders.
“It’s been a long tour and we’re missing all of you,” said coach Swys de Bruin, “But spirits are high and we have a job to do. We’ve trained well, it’s been a good week, and we’re going to give it our all. The match is under roof so we’re hoping to pull it off (before returning home).”
The last time the Lions won in Dunedin was in 2011 when the game was played at the old Carisbrook ground and the tourists had in their ranks a young Warren Whiteley and Jaco Kriel, Cobus Grobbelaar, Doppies la Grange, Derick Minnie, Alwyn Hollenbach, Jaco Taute, JC Janse van Rensburg and Butch James.
It was just one of three wins the Lions achieved that year; John Mitchell’s outfit finishing the league phase in 14th spot out of 15 teams. The point-scorers were Elton Jantjies, who kicked four penalties and two conversions, with the tries coming from Wikus van Heerden and Joshua Strauss.
How the Lions will hope for a similar result on Saturday. De Bruin has shuffled his pack for the final match on tour, bringing Robbie Coetzee in at hooker in place of the injured Malcolm Marx, while Johannes Jonker will pack down at tighthead prop.
In the second row Marvin Orie and Andries Ferreira are the two new locks, while the back row will comprise of Kwagga Smith, Franco Mostert and Cyle Brink.
Somewhat surprisingly, due to the number of defensive lapses against the Hurricanes, the backline is unchanged from last week.
“I’m keeping the same backline they didn’t play badly, the stats were really not that bad. There were two soft moments in defence, but I think it’s important to keep continuity this week,” said De Bruin.
There were certainly more than two soft moments and several players, among them Andries Coetzee, Ruan Combrinck, Lionel Mapoe and Jantjies, will especially hope to have big games after the defensive problems in Wellington. According to the statistics from the game, Coetzee missed three of five tackles, Combrinck two of four, Mapoe three of eight and Jantjies three of six.
The other man who’ll have plenty of eyes on him is hooker Coetzee, who’ll want a better performance in the line-outs after his wobbly showing in Wellington.
The Highlanders meanwhile are coming off a big defeat by the Sharks in Durban last weekend and they’ll be without key man Aaron Smith, the scrumhalf having to sit out in agreement with the national body ahead of the June Test series against France.
Lions team: Andries Coetzee, Ruan Combrinck, Lionel Mapoe, Harold Vorster, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Elton Jantjies, Nic Groom, Kwagga Smith, Franco Mostert (capt), Cyle Brink, Andries Ferreira, Marvin Orie, Johannes Jonker, Robbie Coetzee, Dylan Smith; Replacements: Jacques van Rooyen, Ruan Dreyer, Jacobie Adriaanse, Lourens Erasmus, Marnus Schoeman, Dillon Smit, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Sylvian Mahuza