Jacques van der Westhuyzen
JOHN Mitchell isn’t prepared to entertain any thoughts of the Lions being chopped from Super Rugby next year and instead wants to focus on “growing his team” through this year’s campaign.
There’s a strong possibility that South Africa’s worst performing team in this year’s Super Rugby competition will be replaced by the Southern Kings next year and right now, a third of the way through the competition, that team is the Lions.
Mitchell yesterday said the Kings issue was out of his hands.
“It’s something for the administrators to take care of,” he explained. “They’re going to have to be smart and clever (dealing with the issue), but for us, thinking about the issue is negative motivation. We certainly don’t want to get into survival mode. Right now our focus is on progressing in Super Rugby ... to grow as a team and to remain ambitious.”
Mitchell said his injury-hit squad’s biggest challenge was to learn to work together and show patience in matches. The Lions will go into Saturday’s Gauteng derby with the Bulls at Coca-Cola Park (7pm) on the back foot after copping a hiding from the Cheetahs last weekend.
“We’re a team that’s learning lessons right now ... but we haven’t done that in the last few weeks,” said Mitchell.
“Life always presents you with lessons but it depends on how quickly you’re prepared to learn.
“Because of the changes in the team we’re still learning to work together and we need to learn to be more patient. When we’ve got those two things in place the results will come.”
Working together is seemingly the Lions’ biggest obstacle at the moment and the reason is up to 10 first choice players are out injured, while Mitchell’s also continually chopping and changing his team.
This week there are six changes, four of them at the back ... something Mitchell believes is necessary for the way they want to take on the Bulls. “I think it’s the most effective combination for the Bulls as it gives us more speed at the back,” he explained.
Young Andries Coetzee moves to fullback, Jaco Taute returns to outside centre, Alwyn Hollenbach replaces Butch James at inside centre and James Kamana comes in on the left wing.
Up front, Stephan Greeff gets another chance in the second row, replacing the injured Paul Willemse, while Callie Visagie takes over from Martin Bezuidenhout at hooker.
Lions: Andries Coetzee, Deon van Rensburg, Jaco Taute, Alwyn Hollenbach, James Kamana, Elton Jantjies, Tian Meyer, Joshua Strauss (capt), Derick Minnie, Cobus Grobbelaar, Franco van der Merwe, Stephan Greeff, Patric Cilliers, Callie Visagie, Caylib Oosthuizen. Replacements: Martin Bezuidenhout, Jacobie Adriaanse/CJ van der Linde, Marius Coetzer, Christo le Roux, Ross Cronjé, Butch James, Lionel Mapoe