Johannesburg - New signing Carlos Spencer will not be on the field on Saturday when the Lions face the Bulls in a pre-season friendly in Polokwane.
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Spencer, who was a surprise signing earlier this month for the Super 14 franchise, has been given the weekend off by coach Dick Muir, but will play in the second warm-up games in Witbank on February 5. The team for the Polokwane games will be named on Tuesday.
Muir will field two sides, but has decided to mix and match his teams rather than go for a show of strength on the field against the defending Super 14 champs.
The Bulls will field their strongest line-up, as they have no other warm-up games ahead of the start of the competition, but will now face a composite Lions team.
Muir explained his reasoning on Spencer, who he believes will mean a lot for his younger players in the season to come.
“He won’t be playing. He’s played quite a bit overseas and it isn’t like a pre-season for him at the moment. He will play in the second round of warm-up games.”
“He has really fitted in well and I have been pleasantly surprised by his conditioning and how hard he works in practice,” Muir said of Spencer.
“His work ethic is second to none and he is a no-nonsense guy who just gets on with his job. He has been a real pleasure to have in the squad and he has added an injection of enthusiasm into this group.
“He has been an inspiration to some of the players and we’ve seen them grow around him. That is why you bring in a professional like that to impart some of his knowledge on the other players.
Muir explained that he is still not sure of certain positions, meaning that players still have much to play for in the warm-up games.
“We’ve been working with a big squad and we will want to give everybody a fair opportunity to stake their claim. Obviously in certain positions it is pretty clear in my mind who is going to be the man in the position, but in others it is pretty tight.
“The one thing in having a big squad like this, the players push each other. For a lot of the players there is the opportunity to produce on the field now, after they did so much hard work off the field.
“We will have two different sides – a black and a red side. The black side will play the first game and the red the second game. We will probably have a longer half time break, but we haven’t got to the detail yet as to how the game will work. The score is not important for us, but rather how the guys play.”
Players not considered for the game because of injury include winger Tonderai Chavhanga, prop Gert Muller, lock Wouter Moore, scrumhalves Jano Vermaak and JP Joubert, lock Jacques Lombaard and hooker Hanyani Shimange.
The Lions will also have two warm-up matches in Witbank on February 5. The squad will again be split into two groups, with the first playing the Leopards and the main match against the Pumas will feature a team as close to the starting line-up as Muir can name at that stage.