Cheetahs to stretch Lions
John Mitchell (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Lions coach John Mitchell has warned that his men will be in for a far tougher challenge than last week's Blue Bulls encounter when they host the Cheetahs in an Absa Currie Cup rugby match in Johannesburg on Saturday.
"Their resistance is going to greater than what we have experienced the weekend before, but that excites us and we are looking forward to it," said Mitchell.
"They will certainly stretch us more than the Bulls because of their approach and the fact that they use the whole 70 metres of the field.
"So in our defensive lines we are going to have to work very hard for each other and we are going to have to be very disciplined."
Mitchell also insisted that complacency is the last thing he had to worry about despite his team's impressive start of four matches without a loss.
"We are progressing and we are maturing and they are all good signs, but we have also suffered through a lot as a union so we know what the other side of the fence looks like, and we are very mindful of that.
"So I guess we are quite grounded."
The Free State squad will be without centre Andries Strauss and fullback Hennie Daniller who are out with injuries and they would also miss the influence of Heinrich Brussow, who returned to the Springbok squad.
The men from Bloemfontein did, however, receive a late boost when star loose forward Ashley Johnson was released from the national squad.
Meanwhile, two of the most unlucky loosehead props in the country will be involved in a battle for supremacy.
Coenie Oosthuizen of the Cheetahs and the Lions’ JC Janse van Rensburg, both missed out on earning their first Springbok caps this year when national coach Peter de Villiers opted to leave the injured Gurthro Steenkamp and Tendai Mtawarira behind for the away leg of the Tri-Nations.
Instead Dean Greyling of the Blue Bulls started against the Wallabies and the All Blacks, even though Janse Van Rensburg and Oosthuizen had far more Super Rugby experience.
The Lions frontrower has, however, not given up hope that he will get his chance in future while Oosthuizen's inclusion in the touring party can be viewed as an indication of the national coach's future plans.
"You dream of becoming a Springbok from age six and if that stops being my motivation, I might as well stop playing rugby altogether," said Janse van Rensburg who did not miss a minute of his team's Super Rugby campaign this year.
Looking ahead to Saturday's challenge, the Oudtshoorn-bred frontrower said the scrums would be as tough as they always are against a side coached by a legend.
"With a guy like Os [Du Randt] there, they pride themselves in their scrums and Coenie, Adriaan [Strauss] and WP [Nel] are always a good frontrow, so we are looking forward to that challenge," said Janse van Rensburg.
Scrums aside, Janse Van Rensburg said he was just as exited to get his hands on the ball.
His role in the team had changed significantly since Mitchell took over as head coach and he had to work hard at becoming a more mobile loosehead.
"Mitch is not a coach who believes in a pure scrumming prop," he said.
"The basics are important to him, but as far as loosehead play is concerned, he is looking for a ball carrier and that is a role that I'm enjoying."
Kick-off is at 7.10pm