Johannesburg - Xerox Lions coach John Mitchell has made three changes to his team for Friday’s final Currie Cup round robin fixture against the Pumas in Johannesburg.
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The three changes are both tactical and because of injuries.
Mitchell announced on Tuesday that he had brought Warren Whiteley back to his regular starting position of eighthman, sending former Springbok Wikus Van Heerden to the bench, with Joshua Strauss the preferred flank for the match.
Trevor Hall will start in the place of injured George Earl, and Johan Snyman is on the list of replacements.
A final call yet had yet to be made on the availability of vice captain Doppies la Grange, who sustained a hamstring injury in last week’s loss to the Cheetahs.
Mitchell said it looked unlikely that La Grange would recover and that Burton Francis, who’s name is bracketed next to La Grange's, will wear the number 12 jersey.
This opens a place on the bench for Wandile Mjekevu, who is considered one of the finds of the season.
The Lions will have to secure a colossal victory over the Pumas to give them the superior points difference they need to have even an outside chance of qualifying for the Currie Cup semifinals.
"I think it is clear to everyone that our competition goal might elude us, but certainly in terms of our development it won’t stop," said Mitchell.
"There is a lot to play for because if we score well, we can give ourselves every opportunity to still make the semifinals even though we can’t control the match in Kimberley (between Griquas and the Blue Bulls)."
Even though the Bulls would be boosted by their returning Springboks, an upset should not be ruled out, he said.
"The Griquas can certainly upset the Bulls and it is up to us to maximise our potential and play a brand that gets plenty of conversion in this match.
"We’ll just continue in our approach and finish as well as we can in this competition."
Lions captain Franco van der Merwe confessed that the team was disappointed, having come so close to a certain play-off.
"It was a bitter pill to swallow, but I think there were one or two mistakes that cost us the game so I don’t think we’ve played our best game yet and we certainly did not play our best game over the weekend."
The Lions lost 43-37 last week.
Even if the Lions do not make the cut, there are many positives they will take from the season, said Van der Merwe.
"The way the players have grown in terms of character, passion and commitment says a lot and we are definitely going to go places," he said.
Michael Killian, Jannie Boshoff, Waylon Murray, Doppies la Grange/Burton Francis, Deon van Rensburg, Elton Jantjies, Jano Vermaak, Warren Whiteley, Joshua Strauss, Derick Minnie, Franco van der Merwe (captain), Trevor Hall, Ross Geldenhuys, Martin Bezuidenhout, JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: Edgar Marutlulle, Wayne Swart, Johan Snyman, Wikus van Heerden, JP Joubert, Burton Francis/Marius Delport, Marius Delport/Wandile Mjekevu.