Just why a pre-season match between two second string sides of the Lions and Bulls was arranged for late January is anyone’s guess because in this instance one can quite comfortably ask: “What is the point?”
With three weeks to go before the 2018 Super Rugby season kicks off, both Lions boss Swys de Bruin as well as his Bulls counterpart John Mitchell will have a good idea of what their first choice teams will look like.
In fact, Mitchell has already named his squad for the competition, with De Bruin set to name his group next week, but after helping the Lions to back-to-back finals in the last two seasons, and been in charge for the Currie Cup, he’ll know exactly who to put his trust in for the forthcoming campaign.
Mitchell won’t even be at Ellis Park today when a Bulls team made up of players who didn’t get his approval for this year’s competition take on the Lions (3pm); he’ll be in Polokwane with the “chosen men” who’re in action against the Sharks.
That’s why one can only wonder why the Bulls are even part of today’s fixture.
For some individuals it will perhaps be viewed as an opportunity to prove Mitchell wrong and here one thinks of fullback-cum-centre Ulrich Beyers, centre Dries Swanepoel, flyhalf Tony Jantjies, loose-forwards Boom Prinsloo and Shaun Adendorff and hooker Edgar Marutlulle.
But to be honest, these players have little to play for as Mitchell has already nailed his colours to the mast.
For a few Lions men, however, the scenario is a little different. De Bruin needs a few wings to take into the Super Rugby competition because of the unavailability of Ruan Combrinck and Courtnall Skosan who’re both missing due to injury so Madosh Tambwe and Aphiwe Dyantyi have a wonderful opportunity to get right ticks behind their names today.
The match will also give the Lions boss a chance to see Howard Mnisi in action again after the centre sat out all of last season with a knee injury, while Ashlon Davids and Marco Janse van Vuren get a chance to gel and form a strong combination as the likely back-up to Elton Jantjies and Ross Cronje.
With Akker van der Merwe now at the Sharks the Lions are also looking for more depth at hooker, to compete with Malcolm Marx and Robbie Coetzee for the No 2 jumper, and De Bruin has opted to try loose-head prop Corné Fourie in the position. Both coach and player will hope today’s mini experiment pays off.
De Bruin didn’t consider any of his first choice men for the match, among them a host of Springboks, who’ll go straight into the competition opener against the Sharks on February 17 without any pre-season action behind them.