Ockert de Villiers - Sport24
Johannesburg - The Lions will be looking to their bench to strike the deciding blow when they take on the Highlanders in their Super Rugby clash in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Coach Johan Ackermann surprised with his team selections with what could be considered a conservative halfback paring of Marnitz Boshoff and Ross Cronje, and Alwyn Hollenbach at inside centre.
Playing off the bench, regular flyhalf Elton Jantjies and scrumhalf Faf de Klerk will form a dynamic trio with centre Howard Mnisi in the second half of the encounter.
The intention with his selection is for the starting XV to build a solid base before sending on a bench that are capable of attacking the line.
“It is great to be back at our home ground for a 15:00 game, so hopefully we can get that impact we selected them for,” Ackermann said of his decision to play the three off the bench.
“Our first XV must start well so that those guys can play with freedom when they come on.”
The home side will come up against a Highlanders side that were in rampant form against the Sharks a week ago running in seven tries to two for a 48-15 victory in Dunedin.
The Lions will be hoping the jet-lag, coupled with the altitude, would have taken its toll on the tourists when they unleash the bench in the latter stages of the match.
Ackermann said although Boshoff and Cronje were in a different mould to Jantjies and De Klerk, the team would not deviate much from their tried and tested game plan.
“We expect Marnitz to make good decisions as the 10 and if there is opportunity to play territory then he’ll have to play that but we will not change too much,” Ackermann said.
“We are not going to change too much, we still have a certain plan in place and the guys must follow that through.”
Influential Lions captain Warren Whiteley said they would be looking for a better start to the match after they leaked two tries in the first 10 minutes of the match against the Bulls.
“There were some really good things during that game. We scored some fantastic tries, good interplay between backs and forwards but the biggest thing was our start,” he said.
“The first 25 to 30 minutes the Bulls they played some fantastic rugby and they surprised us a bit with their expansive game.
“The start this weekend especially against a side like the Highlanders that are extremely on turnover ball.”
Meanwhile, Courtnall Skosan returns at left wing with Andries Coetzee moving back to fullback, while Alwyn Hollenbach has also earned a starting position at inside centre in place of Howard Mnisi.
The only two changes among the forwards are in the front row where Schalk van der Merwe will start at loosehead prop in place of Jacques van Rooyen, while Robbie Coetzee replaces Akker van der Merwe at hooker.
15. Andries Coetzee, 14. Ruan Combrinck, 13. Harold Vorster, 12. Alwyn Hollenbach, 11. Courtnall Skosan, 10. Marnitz Boshoff, 9. Ross Cronje, 8. Warren Whiteley (captain), 7. Warwick Tecklenburg, 6. Jaco Kriel, 5. Franco Mostert, 4. Andries Ferreira, 3. Julian Redelinghuys, 2. Robbie Coetzee, 1. Schalk van der Merwe
Substitutes: 16. Akker van der Merwe, 17. Jacques van Rooyen, 18. Ruan Dreyer, 19. Robert Kruger, 20. Ruaan Lerm, 21. Faf de Klerk, 22. Elton Jantjies, 23. Howard Mnisi
15 Ben Smith (co-captain), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Richard Buckman, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu (co-captain), 7 Dan Pryor, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Mark Reddish, 4 Tom Franklin, 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Kane Hames
Substitutes: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Brendon Edmonds, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Elliott Dixon, 20 John Hardie, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Jason Emery