Lions’ fringe working hard for improved run

Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen. Picture: Backpagepix

Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen. Picture: Backpagepix

Published Mar 11, 2024


Morgan Bolton

The Lions will have another week to contemplate their squad ahead of a testing European tour.

The Joburgers are planning to depart for United Rugby Championship clashes against Connacht and Cardiff next week Tuesday, with an EPCR Challenge Cup round of 16 clash against Benetton following that. Depending on the result of the latter, they could also find themselves in a quarter-final clash thereafter, before returning to South Africa for clashes against Leinster and Munster.

It is an intimidating block that requires precise planning in player management.

Last week, coach Ivan van Rooyen and his assistants watched a Lions team of fringe players put the Baby Boks to the sword in a training match, and will have another opportunity in training and a practice match this week. The result, although pleasing, would not have been the main concern, with several players afforded the opportunity to stretch their legs and take some contact far more important.

After the exercise, which had some big hits and was breathless at times, Van Rooyen admitted there would be limited openings for the larger squad to be selected for the tour.

Said Cash: “It is good for the whole squad to play.

“There are a few touring spots open against Benetton (in the Challenge Cup) and then, hopefully thereafter, against Connacht or Pau. We then come hope for Leinster and Munster. It is important to get the guys through the games and playing for the handful of open spots.

“We will need a little bit of squad management for the last two weeks of the tour or coming back. You don’t want to come back here (to Ellis Park) with an altitude problem.

“It is important for us to get that right. There have been good enough performances (in training and against the Baby Boks last week) to really put up some hands.”

As such, noting the development and fitness of Morne Brandon, Izan Esterhuizen, Travis Gordon, Nico Steyn, Kade Wolhuter, Zander du Plessis, Andries Coetzee, Jarod Cairns, Johan Mulder, Tyler Bocks and Rynhardt Jonker will certainly give Van Rooyen pause, as he plots the team’s way forward.

Strengthening the team this week will be the return of the handful of Lions who participated at the Springbok alignment camp last week in Cape Town, including Ruan Venter, Sanele Nohamba, Morne van den Berg, Jordan Hendrikse, the injured Henco van Wyk, and Quan Horn.

They would have gleaned much wisdom and knowledge from the camp, which will be most welcome in the halls of Doornfontein as they help the team chart a course to a Top 8 spot in the URC. Van Rooyen and Co kept tabs of their charges in the Cape during the week, with the coach also expressed a degree of pride regarding his players.

“Being in there for the first time, is obviously a big moment for them,” he said.

“Sanele is probably the only one who has had a previous alignment camp. Being in that system for the first time, seeing the details, rubbing shoulders with the Springboks who have won two world cups is, obviously, an awesome experience,” he concluded.

Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen. Picture: Backpagepix