Vodacom Super Rugby
Lions aim to 'get pride back'
Johannesburg - Only one thing is hurting the Lions more than their seven Super Rugby losses this season and that is the fact that they have not managed to win at home in more than two years.
The last time their supporters left Ellis Park with a smile was on May 8th, 2009 when, ironically, Earl Rose scored the winner against the Highlanders with 10 minutes left on the clock.
"It is definitely a sore point," Lions captain Doppies la Grange said on Thursday.
"The guys know we are letting our fans down and we have more pride than what we are showing at the moment, so we have to get that pride back and make it a difficult place for other teams to win."
In response to last week's 27-3 loss to the Sharks, Lions coach John Mitchell wasted no time in addressing the obvious by making seven changes to his starting line-up against the Stormers on Saturday.
"There are some injuries but the forward pack has been changed deliberately on the basis that we think set-pieces are critical to this weekend's performance and our lineout has been the root of all evil in the last three weeks," said Mitchell.
The result is that the evergreen David de Villiers will be in charge of the lineouts alongside Wikus van Heerden who is back from injury.
Injuries to Derick Minnie (knee) and Josh Strauss (concussion) opened the door for Cobus Grobbelaar and Michael Rhodes at the side of the scrum.
Tighthead prop Jacobie Adriaanse was promoted to sort out the team's inefficiency in the other area where the Lions are struggling.
"Some people have not been reliable in that area and taken responsibility for their actions so we decided to make a change," Mitchell said referring to both set phases.
Changes to the backline were also made because of injury, although it was always going to be a matter of time before former Blue Bulls flyhalf Burton Francis was given another start in the number 10 jersey.
Francis played a central role in the Lions' Neo Series victory over a Sharks squad which had a full compliment of Springboks at their disposal, and showed promise in 2010 before injury put an end to his season.
Despite the increasing pressure the Lions are under to improve their performance, Mitchell insisted his charges were not suffering from extreme anxiety.
"There is no such thing as desperation," said Mitchell.
"It is about holding your nerve and making sure that people continue to improve and understand that they are accountable at this level.
"All we're asking is to stick with what we do and asking for some inspiration possibly.
"Whether it is a carry, whether it's a big tackle or whether it is a lineout taken in the right part of the field that allows us to build pressure.
"That is all we are asking and right now they are not responding in that way and they are going to need to respond if they want to have a good experience."
15 Michael Killian, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Doppies La Grange (captain), 11 Deon van Rensburg, 10 Burton Francis, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Warren Whitely, 7 Michael Rhodes, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 David de Villiers, 4 Wikus van Heerden, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg
Substitutes: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Patric Cilliers, 18 Franco van der Merwe, 19 Dries van Schalkwyk, 20 Rory Kockott, 21 Elton Jantjies, 22 Jaco Taute
15 Conrad Jantjes, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Juan de Jongh, 11 Gio Aplon, 10 Gary van Aswegen, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Schalk Burger (captain), 5 Andries Bekker, 4 De Kock Steenkamp, 3 CJ van der Linde, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Wicus Blaauw
Substitutes: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Brok Harris, 18 Anton van Zyl, 19 Nick Koster, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Lionel Cronje, 22 Johann Sadie