Johannesburg - Auto and General Lions coach Dick Muir has rewarded an inspired performance by the team’s “Captain America” Todd Clever with a spot in the starting line-up against the Chiefs in Friday night’s Vodacom Super 14 match at Coca Cola Park.
Clever is one of three changes to the side that lost to the Stormers 26-13 at the same venue last Saturday, with young fetcher Derick Minnie moving into the loose trio as well.
Clever replaces Jonathan Mokuena, the hard running No8 who struggled with the dearth of ball that the Lions had in the first half against the Stormers, while Franco van der Merwe, one the flank last Saturday moves across to lock at the expense of Jacques Lombaard.
Muir has resisted the urge to change more than this – sticking as closely as possible to the side that excelled in the second half of the match – but will be expecting a lot more from his halfback combination of JP Joubert and Carlos Spencer this time out.
Both were among the four players substituted at the break by Muir on Saturday, which had a significant influence on the match – the other two being Mokuena and Luus.
On the bench, niggling injuries to props JC Janse van Rensburg (haematoma) and Kevin Buys (lower back) have the two bracketed against each other for the game.
Muir admitted he may have underestimated the “nerves” of the new recruits in their first game for the Lions, and this would have heavily contributed towards the lacklustre first half performance.
“Saturday against the Stormers was truly a case of two halves,” Muir explained, “In the second half there was the spark and we’ve tried to keep as much to that spark and excitement that we saw in that part of the game.
“I think in a way we overlooked the human element of having a bunch of new guys start in their first game and I think in a way the nerves got to them more than we expected. They subsequently gave the Stormers too much respect in the first half but we managed to get things right tactically in the second half.”
Muir called last weekend’s loss a “valuable lesson” but also indicated some harsh words had fallen in the changeroom.
“This side needs to grow as a team and it was a valuable lesson for us. The players would hopefully have learnt from experience and this week we start over again. One thing is for sure, the players know I never want to have that chat ever again in this team context.”
The Lions face the Chiefs on Friday night, and will leave for the overseas leg of their tour on Sunday.
Lions: Earl Rose; Tonderai Chavhanga, Deon van Rensburg, Doppies la Grange, Wandile Mjekevu; Carlos Spencer, JP Joubert; Todd Clever, Derick Minnie, Cobus Grobbelaar (captain), Willem Stoltz, Franco van der Merwe, Ross Geldenhuys, Hannes Franklin, Heinke van der Merwe.
Substitutes: Charles Emslie, JC Janse van Rensburg/Kevin Buys, Jacques Lombaard, Jonathan Mokuena, Jacques Coetzee, Burton Francis, Michael Killian.