JOHANNESBURG – It’s decision time for Lions coach Swys de Bruin.
His players have had a week off, but the Sharks visit Ellis Park on Friday and De Bruin will be desperate to keep the winning streak going ahead of their Tour to Australasia.
After suffering back-to-back defeats by the Stormers and Bulls, the Lions hit back with wins against the Jaguares, Rebels and Sunwolves to get their campaign back on track.
At the same time De Bruin and his coaching team introduced several promising stars at the union to Super Rugby and they handsomely paid back the faith shown in them.
But with the Sharks set to visit this Friday and clashes against the Brumbies, Chiefs and Crusaders to come on tour, De Bruin has some big calls to make ahead of this weekend’s match.
He has favoured Courtnall Skosan and Ruan Combrinck on the wings up to now, but with Aphiwe Dyantyi fit again and having made a big impact from off the bench against the Sunwolves, De Bruin could start Dyantyi again this weekend.
But there’s also the very dependable and ruthless finisher Sylvian Mahuza to consider, while at fullback Andries Coetzee should return after sitting out the trip to Singapore.
More interesting is what De Bruin may do in the midfield.
He started the season backing the experienced Harold Vorster and Lionel Mapoe, but dropped both in recent weeks, and handed rookies Franco Naude and Wandisile Simalane an opportunity to show what they can do.
Both played well against the likes of the Jaguares, Rebels and Sunwolves, but coming up against Andre Esterhuizen and Lukhanyo Am may call for a more experienced centre pairing this week.
Mapoe was restored to the midfield last time out though, but in the unfamiliar No 12 jersey alongside Simelane, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if De Bruin actually stuck with that combination this week.
At scrumhalf Ross Cronje and Nic Groom are the options for De Bruin, whose bigger challenge is putting together a loose-trio this week.
Much will depend on whether Cyle Brink is fit enough to play this week and if he is, whether he’ll start the game or play from off the bench.
Against the Sunwolves, the coach opted to use locks Stephan Lewies and Ruan Vermaak in the back-row alongside Marnus Schoeman, but De Bruin might want specialists in those key positions this week.
That would mean Brink coming into the equation, as well as him considering Hacjivah Dayimani, Robert Kruger and James Venter.
The tight-five that did duty in Singapore is expected to be retained, meaning Sti Sithole will pack down at loosehead prop alongside Malcolm Marx and Carlu Sadie.
Marvin Orie and Rhyno Herbst should form the second row pairing.
De Bruin is expected to name his line-up for the Sharks match later today.@jacq_west