Will Lions' coach gamble pay off, or back-fire in Sydney
Will Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen’s gamble pay off, or back-fire in Sydney.
That is the big question ahead of the tourists’ first of four games in Australasia at this early stage of the 2020 Super Rugby competition.
The match against the Waratahs at the Bankwest Satdium – a venue the Lions have never played at before – is Van Rooyen’s first in Australia as the team’s head coach, and he has made some interesting selections ahead of the match.
After a few iffy performances Van Rooyen (who has taken over from Swys de Bruin) has opted to drop 37-year-old veteran Jannie du Plessis from his matchday squad and backed 22-year-old Carlu Sadie in the No 3 jersey. Backing him up will be Frans van Wyk, the promising 24-year-old tighthead prop who’s played only six Super Rugby games.
And then, Van Rooyen has also backed the still inexperienced Jan-Henning Campher at hooker, ahead of Pieter Jansen, who started all three previous matches.
Surprisingly, the powerful and experienced lock-cum-loose-forward, Willem Alberts, is still a bench sitter, having performed pretty well in the latter stages of the Lions’ last match, against the Stormers at Ellis Park. And, Van Rooyen has preferred to again back Manny Rass at outside centre, with the team’s most dynamic midfielder, Wandisile Simelane, also having to be content with a spot on the bench.
With the Waratahs yet to win a game in three outings this season, their backs are very much against the wall; this being a golden opportunity then for the Lions to make it six wins on the trot against the men from Sydney and a chance to kick off their tour with a morale-boosting win.
The Lions should be a confident bunch following their narrow defeat to the Stormers last time out, while the Waratahs appear to be down in the dumps and wondering where their next win will come from. Home town coach Rob Penney has also, again, backed several youngsters ahead of more experienced men, like flyhalf Will Harrison, 20, who’ll go head-to-head with Elton Jantjies, the experienced Lions No 10 and 2019 World Cup winner.
The Waratahs though have still got a core of seasoned operators like Kurtley Beale, Jake Gordon, Michael Hooper and Rob Simmons in the mix and they’ll be key alongside the rookies. The Lions, too, have several youngsters in their team and they’ll look to be guided by the likes of Jantjies, Andries Coetzee, Marnus Schoeman, Marvin Orie and Dylan Smith.
The Lions’ next 80 minutes on the field will tell whether Van Rooyen got his selections spot on, because being able to push the likes of Alberts, Hacjivah Dayimani, Morne van den Berg and Simelane into the action late on might just prove the difference in what should be a closely-fought game.
Kick-off in Sydney on Friday in 10.15am.
WARATAHS TEAM Starting XV: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Mark Nawaqanitawase, 13 Alex Newsome, 12 Karmichael Hunt, 11 Jack Maddocks, 10 Will Harrison, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Jack Dempsey, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Lachie Swinton, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Tom Staniforth, 3 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 2 Robbie Abel, 1 Angus Bell
Replacements: 16 Damien Fitzpatrick, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Tetera Daulkner, 19 Jed Holloway, 20 Ryan McCauley, 21 Mitch Short, 22 Lalakai Foketi, 23 James Ramm
LIONS TEAM Starting XV: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Tyrone Green, 13 Manny Rass, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Elton Jantjies (capt), 9 Andre Warner, 8 Len Massyn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Jan-Henning Campher, 1 Dylan Smith
Replacements:16 Pieter Jansen, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Frans van Wyk, 19 Willem Alberts, 20 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 21 Hacjivah Dayimani, 22 Morne van den Berg, 23 Wandisile Simelane