JOHANNESBURG – Seasoned Lions scrumhalf Ross Cronje has one message for the youngsters who’ll run out against the Jaguares at Ellis Park on Saturday: Don’t hold back!
The Lions will be out to hit back against the men from Argentina in their round four Super Rugby match, after suffering defeats against the Stormers and Bulls in their last two outings.
Their only win so far in 2019 came against the same Jaguares in round one in Buenos Aires.
But the Lions team that will run out on Saturday will have a vastly different look about it compared to the one that registered a first win in Argentina four weeks ago.
The back-to-back defeats persuaded coach Swys de Bruin to make a number of changes to his side, including dropping several Springbok players and replacing them with young stars of the future.
Here one thinks of exciting centre Wandisile Simelane, centre Franco Naude, lock Ruan Vermaak, flank Vincent Tshituka, prop Nathan McBeth and wing Tyrone Green.
They join fellow young guns who have already featured in games at this level – Rhyno Herbst, Carlu Sadie, Pieter Jansen, James Venter and Gianni Lombard – in the Lions squad this weekend.
“My advice to the younger guys would be to just treat this match like another game,” said Cronje, who is back in the starting team too this week, after returning from a long injury layoff last week against the Bulls, where he played off the bench.
“I’ll tell them to not hold back anything, to not go into their shell. If they want to express themselves, then they must express themselves.
“They must make the most of the opportunity that has come their way. Also, they must go out there and enjoy it.”
Cronje added he was excited to see what some of the younger guys could do at Super Rugby level.
“A couple of these guys have a lot of flair... Wandisile has made me sit on my arse a few times, Tyrone is strong for his size, Gianni has the skills and Vince is a big, strong ball-carrier.
“The nice thing about youngsters like these is that they come straight out of school and believe they can play Super Rugby, and it’s that confidence which is always welcome.”
He added the Lions squad was united in De Bruin’s decision to give some of the younger players an opportunity this weekend.
“I wouldn’t say this is a wake-up call (for some of the senior players), but rather the coaches backing one or two guys.
“We were told at the beginning of the year that no-one’s spot is cemented, and that everyone must earn the jersey, and rightfully so. If you’re not performing, you must shape up or shift out.
“A couple of the youngsters have come through the systems here, and have put their hands up at training; they deserve an opportunity.”
The Jaguares, coming off consecutive wins against the Bulls and Blues after losing first-up to the Lions, will also be a much-changed side this week.
Coach Gonzalo Quesada made a whopping 11 changes to his side from last week. They’re looking for their first win at Ellis Park.
Cronje said the Lions had an opportunity now to turn their season around.
“It’s really nice being back after the injury, and hopefully we can turn things around this week and get our season back on track.
“We’ve had one or two poor performances each season, so hopefully last week (losing against the Bulls at home) is the one (bad one) for the season.”
Kickoff on Saturday is 3.05pm.
Teams For Ellis Park
Lions: Andries Coetzee, Sylvian Mahuza, Wandisile Simelane, Franco Naude, Courtnall Skosan, Elton Jantjies, Ross Cronje, Kwagga Smith, Vincent Tshituka, Marnus Schoeman, Rhyno Herbst, Ruan Vermaak, Carlu Sadie, Malcolm Marx (captain), Dylan Smith.
Bench: Pieter Jansen, Nathan McBeth, Frans van Wyk, Stephan Lewies, James Venter, Dillon Smit, Harold Vorster, Gianni Lombard/Tyrone Green.
Jaguares: Joaquin Tuculet (captain), Sebastian Cancelliere, Matias Moroni, Bautista Ezcurra, Emiliano Boffelli, Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, Martin Landajo, Rodrigo Bruni, Marcos Kremer, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Matias Alemanno, Guido Petti, Enrique Pieretto, Julian Montoya, Juan Pablo Zeiss.
Bench: Gaspar Baldunciel, Santiago Garcia Botta, Santiago Medrano, Tomas Lavanini, Tomas Lezana, Tomas Cubelli, Juan Cruz Mallia, Matias Orlando.@jacq_west