Lions squad not finalised
John Mitchell (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg – The remaining places in the Lions’ Super Rugby squad must be filled in Port Elizabeth on Friday night when they play the EP Kings in their final warm-up game.
Lions coach John Mitchell admits that he is still examining two or three positions before settling on his final squad of 30. That is why the Lions are not travelling to PE with their strongest side.
The first-choice side beat Tucuman at a canter in Johannesburg on Wednesday night and will now start preparations in all earnest for next Saturday’s big Super Rugby kick-off against the Bulls.
“We feel we are progressing well. Everybody is physically ready. Sometimes you lose key players to injury in the pre-season, but that was not the case with us,” said Mitchell.
Only backline player Deon van Rensburg (cracked cheekbone) will miss the start of the Super Rugby competition.
Mitchell is full of praise for Wayne Taylor (conditioning), Rob Collins (team doctor) and David Leicher (physiotherapist) for the manner in which they have managed to get certain players ready for the start of the 2011 season.
“The team will rest for three days while the rest of the squad plays against EP – and then we will focus on the Bulls,” said Mitchell.
“The Bulls will offer us opportunities in the game, like any team will. We will have to play with a lot more intensity and accuracy than was the case against Tucuman.”
Mitchell has picked a few players that are relatively sure of their places in the Super Rugby squad for Friday night’s game.
They are forwards David Bulbring (lock and captain), Ross Geldenhuys (prop) and Michael Rhodes (flank).
Rhodes played for the Lions for the first time on Wednesday night following his move from the Sharks and rehabilitation from a knee injury.
At the back, wing Tonderai Chavhanga and centre Jannie Boshoff are expected to make the side, but one player that will be monitored closely is young centre Joubert Engelbrecht. Mitchell is still looking to boost his reserve strength at inside centre and the 21-year-old is showing a lot of promise.
The Lions coach is not afraid of throwing young players in at the deep end and the Lions team for Friday night’s match is full of greenhorns. It includes flyhalf Hein Cronjé (20) and 18-year-old substitutes Vian van der Watt (scrumhalf) and Ruan Venter (lock).
The teams are:
Southern Kings: Tiger Mangweni, Norman Nelson, Siyanda Grey, Wayne Stevens, Paul Perez, Jaco van Schalkwyk, Jacques Coetzee, Morné Hanekom, Mpho Mbiyozo, Darron Nell, Ross Kennedy, Rory Duncan (capt), André Schlechter, Hannes Franklin, Ronnie Uys Substitutes: Bobby Dyer, Jaco Engels, Barend Pieterse, Boetie Brits, Boela Abrahams, Monty Dumond, Milo Nqoro, Sphephelo Mayaba, Pumlani Nodikita, Lungelo Payi, Nolan Clark, Frank Herne, Matthew Tayler-Smith.
Lions: Marius Delport, Tonderai Chavhanga, Jannie Boshoff, Joubert Engelbrecht, Dusty Noble, Hein Cronjé, JP Joubert, Robert Kruger, Michael Rhodes, Jaco Kriel, David Bullbring (capt), Johan Snyman, Ross Geldenhuys, Edgar Marutlulle, Wayne Swart. Substitutes: Thurston Zimri, Caylib Oosthuizen, Jonathan Mokuena, Renaldo Bothma, Vian van der Watt, Maritz Hoffman, Ruan Dreyer, Ruan Venter, Dale Sabbagh.
Referee: Jaco Peyper.