JOHANNESBURG – The Lions are definitely the “glass half full, rather than half empty” kind of team and forwards coach Philip Lemmer is no different when reflecting on how the team will cope without Warren Whiteley.
Now in his second season in charge of the pack, he has worked with, and had to see, the likes of Ruan Dreyer, Jacques van Rooyen, Franco Mostert, Andries Ferreira and Jaco Kriel all leave to join overseas teams. And now he’ll also be without key loose-forward and captain Whiteley because of injury for at least six weeks.
But Lemmer said yesterday losing experienced men in the pack allowed for other younger players to step up.
“Here at the Lions we always believe things happen for us rather than against us,” said Lemmer, “so there’s maybe a reason why Wozza (Whiteley) has been ruled out now, maybe to allow for someone else to get an opportunity to develop and grow. It’s disappointing that Wozza is out, but we’re also seeing the positive side.”
Lemmer said the Lions’ leadership group was well established.
“Each guy is a leader in his own position, which makes it easy for us as coaches. And anyway, Malcolm (Marx) has always taken charge of the scrums, the five-lock has called the lineouts and Elton (Jantjies) runs the backs. Kwagga (Smith) will also step up now; everyone knows what their roles in the team are.”
But Lemmer did concede that with some grizzled figures no longer part of the team, the Lions pack is now functioning a little differently to a year ago.
“Things have gone well up to now against two international packs in the Jaguares and the Stormers, so I’m happy. The youngsters have put up their hands and taken ownership.
“But the dynamics of the pack have changed. There’s no Dreyer, Van Rooyen, Mostert, Ferreira, who are all more the mauling type of forwards. Now we have more agile players who are quick, so it’s a different pack to last year.”
Among the younger players he refers to include new tighthead prop sensation Carlu Sadie, lock Rhyno Herbst, loose forwards Hacjivah Dayimani, Smith and Marnus Schoeman, and hooker Pieter Jansen.
“This weekend presents another opportunity for the youngsters to put up their hands,” said Lemmer.
“It’s always a massive battle when the Lions and Bulls meet. A lot of guys will want to prove a point; there are those who want to put up their hands for a Boks spot, and those who want to show they must be retained.
“Our forwards will be crucial this week, as always. It starts up front and the plan is to scrum the Bulls, to maul them, to keep them as honest as possible.
“If we do that, then the backs can express themselves. There’s no secret to what we want to do, we want to keep working them,” said an excited Lemmer.@jacq_west