JOHANNESBURG – The once mighty Reds might be struggling to keep up with the other teams in the Super Rugby competition, but the Lions are reading nothing into their travails and are expecting a huge battle in Brisbane on Saturday.
Coach Swys de Bruin and his tourists are coming off a stunning 29-0 win against the Waratahs and are sitting pretty at the top of the table. The Reds, on the other hand, have won just three from eight matches and find themselves among the cellar-dwellers on the log.
But De Bruin says the men from Brisbane, winners of the competition in 2011, are not to be under-estimated.
“They are a more physical team under (the coaching of former All Blacks player) Brad Thorn and they like to play the pressure game, something you didn’t get from them in the past,” said De Bruin ahead of the clash.
“They’re going to be a completely different threat when compared to the Waratahs last week, and their No 12 (Samu Kerevi) is a very physical player; their best player. He’s got a direct running approach and I’m sure he’ll target the flyhalf channel.”
That means Lions No 10 Elton Jantjies is going to be in for a busy day.
“He (Kerevi) will make cutbacks on Elton, but we did well last week stopping that big wing of the Waratahs' (Taqele Naiyaravoro) and Elton’s a good defender... he’ll be ready no matter who runs in his channel.”
De Bruin added he was especially pleased with the way Jantjies has gone about his business this season.
“He’s been the general of this team for five years now, and he’s again in good form. He’s making the right decisions and from an attacking point of view I’m very happy with his game.”
The Lions are not likely to change their team from last week, but De Bruin hinted there may be one or two new faces coming onto the bench.
“Our policy is to employ a rotational system but because we won last weekend it’s going to be important to also have some continuity this week to keep the momentum going,” explained the coach.
“Lionel Mapoe, though, has a groin problem, but we’ll decide on his playing or not at a later stage, while Kwagga Smith’s shoulder problem should also be fine.”
“Winning our first game on tour and not giving away a point to the Waratahs was massive for the confidence and we want to build on that. But I also want to give everyone on tour a chance so there might be a change or two on the bench.”
“The important thing is to stay humble (after last week) and focus only on the next game.”
Saturday’s match kicks off at the unusual time of 3pm in Brisbane (7am SA time), as opposed to the normal late evening start, something De Bruin said might negate the humidity playing a role.
“Brisbane is more north than Durban, so humidity plays a part and the ball does become slippery no matter the time of the game.”
“But playing in the evening is almost like a different animal. Against the Waratahs things were alright for the first 30 minutes and then the ball became very slippery. But there will be a lot of humidity and sweat in Brisbane.”
Meanwhile, the Lions say they won’t rush back regular captain and No 8 Warren Whiteley, who has reinjured a knee which prevented him from going to Australasia with his teammates.
He has undergone scans and is busy with rehabilitation work to get him back to full fitness, but De Bruin has basically said he’s not expecting Whiteley to feature for the Lions any time soon.
“It’s wait and see. The MRI scan shows there's nothing serious; it’s just time until he’s ready. I’m not sure if he’s going to get on tour... but he is the Springbok captain and it’s important he is ready in the next few weeks.”