Lions men to bite ‘new hands’?
Cape Town – This weekend’s important Currie Cup activity brings
with it some intriguing, slightly unusual motivational issues for several of
In the Lions’ match-day 22 for the semi-final against
Western Province at Coca-Cola Park on Saturday (19:00 kickoff) will be several
players very soon to be devoting their loyalty to the Newlands-based franchise.
Utility forward Michael Rhodes and front-ranker Pat Cilliers
have signed on full terms for the Stormers and WP from 2013, whilst backline
stars Elton Jantjies and Jaco Taute have all but agreed loan deals to
temporarily leave Johannesburg and boost the Stormers solely for the next Super
Cilliers is not yet certain of a role against WP on Saturday
as he has been bracketed with fellow-Springbok CJ van der Linde for one reserve
prop spot on the Lions’ bench – ironically Van der Linde is a player to have
represented the Stormers last year and subsequently gone the other way.
But all of Rhodes, Jantjies and Taute will start against the
blue-and-whites, and clearly be expected by coach Johan Ackermann to bite the
hands of the people soon to be feeding them, so to speak.
Rhodes has the not exactly undemanding task of going
head-to-head with emerging Springbok enforcer Eben Etzebeth at No 4 lock, hot
on the heels of his muscular semis rival being named WP Players’ Player of the
Year and Best Forward awards at the union’s annual function.
Taute will lock horns with a fellow-Bok, Juan de Jongh, in
another intriguing personal match-up at outside centre, although when the
former shifts south shortly it is expected that he may challenge more strongly
for the fullback berth once more; the Stormers lack a little for tall timber
among their otherwise slippery back three.
Meanwhile Jantjies clashes with Demetri Catrakilis in a
battle of two flyhalves renowned for their efficiency off the kicking tee – a
department that can so often be crucial in a high-stakes knockout affair.
Catrakilis will not be challenging the diminutive,
left-footed Bok for the Stormers’ No 10 shirt next year, however, as the
23-year-old “Greek God” is Southern Kings-bound after the 2012 Currie Cup.
Meanwhile WP coach Allister Coetzee confirmed to Sport24 on
Wednesday that the presence of Jantjies in the Stormers fold for 2013 would not
affect Peter Grant’s continued involvement with the franchise.
“I’ve had a chat to Bashie (Grant) and he’s definitely
coming back to Stormers (from Kobe Steelers in Japan) and for keeps as well ...
he’s very much part of our campaign plans.”
Coetzee also said he did not expect Province to be
beneficiaries on Saturday of any subconscious “one foot in the Newlands door” mindset
from the trio of Lions starting XV starters soon under his jurisdiction.
“How I see it is that these guys are truly professionals,
like all others in our game. The way they think will be strictly about the
present and of course we fully (respect) that.
“When their job is done at the Lions, only then will they
focus on a next one. It’s the same for our existing players – whatever they
might have heard on the player movements front, it’s irrelevant on the day.
“They’ll also be expected to be nothing but fully focussed
on their roles on Saturday.”
The last time WP were involved in a Currie Cup semi-final
where a high-profile player from the enemy camp was due to hook up with them
shortly afterwards, they will remember that a certain Bryan Habana gave his
usual, full-blooded all for the Blue Bulls before exchanging warm, respectful
handshakes with his comrades-to-be at the final whistle of a nail-biter.
That was in 2009, when the Bulls sneaked a 21-19 victory at
Newlands courtesy of Morne Steyn’s tricky, angled 77th-minute
penalty – following an indiscretion by big Fijian Sireli Naqelevuki -- to grab
the game from the fire.
Meanwhile, spare a deeper thought, perhaps, for Cheetahs
inside centre Andries Strauss, who has been picked for that team for their
red-letter promotion/relegation scrap against the EP Kings over two legs,
starting in Bloemfontein on Friday night.
His situation is even less orthordox than that of the
various departing Lions players: the hard-tackling midfielder will go into the
game knowing that if he plays an influential role in seeing off the side from
the Eastern Cape, he will also be thwarting them from entering the Premier
Division in 2013, when he links up with that very outfit and would thus be
playing his domestic rugby at a less glamorous level than he would like.
So whatever happens in that clash, Strauss is going to be
left with some particularly weird, bittersweet emotions ...
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