JOHANNESBURG – Lions coach Swys de Bruin has labelled rookie Hacjivah Dayimani “a wonderful player” who’ll easily slot in at No 8 in place of Warren Whiteley when the tourists face the Waratahs in a Super Rugby match in Sydney on Friday.
Whiteley was yesterday ruled out of the match after aggravating the same knee injury that kept him on the sidelines for the last five weeks.
The regular eighthman and captain felt “a click” in the knee while running with his team-mates on Monday, on the eve of the team’s departure to Australasia where they will play four matches.
The Springbok was sent for an MRI scan yesterday afternoon and was also due to see an orthopaedic surgeon to determine the extent of the injury. He did not fly out of OR Tambo International with his teammates yesterday.
“There’s no rush ... Warren will sit out this match and we’ll see what the reports say,” said Lions team doctor Rob Collins. “We’ve kept him out as a precautionary measure, but everything depends on the scans ... it’s unlikely though he’ll be out for an extended period.”
It remains a blow to the Lions, who face the Waratahs, Reds, Highlanders and Hurricanes on the Australasian tour.
“Yes it is a blow ... he’s our captain fantastic” said De Bruin.
“But these things happen in our sport. But I trust our squad system and Hacjivah will now come in and he’s already showed he’s up to it. He’ll be in for the fight,” enthused the coach about Dayimani.
“He’s a wonderful player, his confidence is up. He understands our game, he’s fast and he can jump in the lineout. He’s a real team man and his character fits our team.”
Besides the unexpected withdrawal from Friday’s team of Whiteley - who will join the Lions in Australasia once cleared to play - there were no surprises in the side picked by De Bruin.
Franco Mostert will again take over as captain, and play on the blindside flank, allowing Andries Ferreira and Marvin Orie to man the second row.
On the bench, new recruit Nic Groom is set to make his Lions debut after arriving from Northampton in England last week, while fit-again Rohan Janse van Rensburg is also back in the squad after missing the last two games.
The Lions go on tour on the back of a resounding win against the Stormers 10 days ago and having enjoyed a bye this last weekend.
Before that they had suffered rare and unexpected defeats against the Blues, Jaguares and Crusaders. De Bruin said the bye week, at his team’s halfway point, came at the perfect time.
“It was the right time for us to be off. It’s allowed the guys to freshen up and we’re ready for the tour,” he said.
“It’s a longer trip this time, four weeks as opposed to the three last year, and this time we’re also in New Zealand where last year we just played Australian teams. So, in that regard it’s more challenging, but we love touring,” he said.
The Waratahs are Australia’s leading side this year, sitting third in the overall standings having won five of their seven games. The match on Friday kicks off at 11.45am SA time.
The Lions starting XV:
Andries Coetzee, Ruan Combrinck, Lionel Mapoe, Harold Vorster, Madosh Tambwe, Elton Jantjies, Dillon Smit, Hacjivah Dayimani, Franco Mostert, Kwagga Smith, Marvin Orie, Andries Ferreira, Ruan Dreyer, Malcolm Marx, Jacques van Rooyen; Replacements: Robbie Coetzee, Dylan Smith, Jacobie Adriaanse, Lourens Erasmus, Marnus Schoeman, Nic Groom, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Sylvian Mahuza