JOHANNESBURG – They may only be warm-up games, a chance to test new combinations and plans, but for several individuals hoping to go to the World Cup later this year, Sunday’s Superhero double-header in Cape Town gives them a chance to get one over their rivals early in the season.
The results of the matches between the Lions and Sharks, and Stormers and Bulls at Cape Town Stadium will mean nothing three weeks out from the start of Super Rugby, but for the coaches it’ll be a chance to tick some boxes, while for the players it’s an opportunity to get a tick behind their names.
“All the South African teams have a good look about them,” said Lions captain Warren Whiteley yesterday.
“They’re strong, with a lot of depth, too, and there’s going to be a lot of competition between individuals this year for those international spots. I think it’s going to be a very good, and competitive competition this year."
Whiteley, for one, will be looking to make a fast start to 2019, especially with his main rival for the Bok No 8 jersey, Duane Vermeulen, now turning out for the Bulls. Both men will be in action in Sunday’s warm-up affair in the Cape.
The good news for the Lions skipper is that he is fully fit to start the campaign; this after hurting his calf in the off-season, which put him out of training for a few weeks during January.
“Yip, I’m fit and ready to play,” said Whiteley.
“It’s important that everyone in the squad can get a run before the start of the competition and that’s why most of the senior guys will play on Sunday. The youngsters in the group played last week against the Bulls, but the seniors now need game time.
#SuperHeroSunday is fast approaching and we cannot wait! The @emirates Lions will be in action against the Cell C Sharks at 14:00 on Sunday, 03 February in Cape Town. If you're not at the stadium, catch the game on SuperSport 1!#LionsPride pic.twitter.com/h7ki17Ic93— Emirates Lions (@LionsRugbyCo) January 29, 2019
“In the past we’ve always tried to ensure everyone gets between 60 and 70 minutes of proper action before the start of the competition and we’ll get that this weekend.
“At least 50% of what we’ll take out of Sunday is getting the bodies contact-ready and fit. Playing a proper match is so different to running around on the training ground, but it will also give us an opportunity to test a few new things, new combinations and so on.”@jacq_west