JOHANNESBURG – Just a day after being recognised as a player new Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus is interested in possibly employing against England in a three-Test series in June, Ruan Combrinck was included in the Lions starting team to face the Stormers in a key Super Rugby match at Ellis Park this weekend – his first outing in months for the Johannesburg-based team.
The 27-year-old suffered two shoulder injuries last year; the first in the early rounds of Super Rugby which sidelined him until the latter stages of the competition, and then late last year when he hurt his other shoulder while playing for his Japanese club Kintetsu Liners. On both occasions he required surgery, putting an end to his then fledgling Bok career.
But having made seven Springbok appearances in 2016, including a memorable debut against Ireland at Ellis Park when he saved his team with a stunning second-half try after playing off the bench, Combrinck is still regarded by many, including Erasmus it seems, as a real right wing option for the Boks. The Lions man will, with 21 other invited players from his team and the Stormers, take part in a national alignment camp in Vanderbijlpark next week, an indication he is in with a shout of reviving his Test career.
For now though, Combrinck will want to make a big impression for the Lions and his return to action couldn’t have come sooner. The Lions have suffered three defeats in their last four outings.
And on Saturday the stakes could not be higher with the Stormers visiting Ellis Park, with both teams rather desperate to grab a win after losing last weekend. Lions coach Swys de Bruin will be one happy man that Combrinck is available again, especially with young hot-shot Aphiwe Dyantyi sidelined with an injury for the foreseeable future.
“I’m very excited Ruan is back,” said De Bruin.
“He’s 100 percent in the right place now and his experience will be very important for us. But he also brings calmness to the team and his versatility makes him a key player. He’s of course also got a brilliant right boot.”
Besides Combrinck returning to action after a long layoff this weekend, lock Marvin Orie is also back this week to partner Franco Mostert in the second row. Andries Ferreira is sitting out as per the rotation policy employed by the Lions, while Hacjivah Dayimani will again pack down at No 8 in Warren Whiteley’s absence. De Bruin said he was excited about his new No 8.
“Hacjivah played so well last week and I really think No 8 is his best position. He can play anywhere, No 6 and 7, and even on the wing, but 8 suits him, and he’s playing and training there now under the mentorship of Warren,” explained De Bruin. “He’s got such a good skills set, but I think No 8 is where we’ll see him going forward.”
Meanwhile, De Bruin clarified the injury situation regarding some other Lions players ahead of next week’s bye and then the four-week trip to Australasia where they will face the Waratahs, Reds, Hurricanes and Highlanders.
Ross Cronje has rib and knee problems and a decision on whether he will tour will only be taken next week, while Rohan Janse van Rensburg has bruising on his upper leg, but should be fit to play in a week’s time.
Courtnall Skosan is recovering well from a knee injury but will only play again when the Lions return from New Zealand, while the best news is that Whiteley will return to lead the squad on tour next week.
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Madosh Tambwe, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Dillon Smit, 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Franco Mostert (capt), 4 Marvin Orie, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylan Smith.
Replacements: Corne Fourie, Jacques van Rooyen, Johannes Jonker, Lourens Erasmus, Marnus Schoeman, Marco Jansen van Vuren, Howard Mnisi, Sylvian Mahuza