Mitchell: Fight fire with fire
Johannesburg - "Play the way you did against the Waratahs and you'll come a poor second."
That is what Lions coach John Mitchell's message to his players ahead of Saturday's Vodacom Super Rugby match against the Highlanders at Dunedin's House of Pain comes down to.
Mitchell was extremely disappointed with his team's weak performance in their 12-29 Super Rugby defeat to the Waratahs in Sydney last week.
The Waratahs have also sometimes lacked the necessary fire this year, but the same allegation cannot be levelled at the Highlanders.
Even in the absence of star players, the Highlanders have distinguished themselves as strong contenders for the play-offs.
Mitchell believes the Lions must fight fire with fire.
"We have to play with intensity and dominate physically. If our attitude is as poor as it was against the Waratahs and we don't get physically stuck-in, we will struggle. We have to play with heart and make sure that everyone is sharp," said Mitchell.
He believes his team collapsed against the Waratahs and were not alert on defence.
"Our inability to dominate physically has to do with our immaturity. Some players were not psychologically switched on for the game and became satisfied with their performances (after the win over the Brumbies)."
Even so, Mitchell cannot afford to wield the axe. He believes there are sound reasons for the few changes that have been made at the back.
"The changes are a result of the backline's performance against the Waratahs. I need to try and get the best players on the field on a weekly basis."
He added that the return of Elton Jantjies at flyhalf and a shift to inside centre for Butch James is a result of the coaching team's search for the best combinations.
He believes that Doppies la Grange, who is being moved to outside centre, will be able to cope with the positional switch from No 12.
Dylan des Fountain, who replaces the injured Lionel Mapoe on the wing, was one of the Lions' two try-scorers after coming on as a substitute against the Waratahs.
The Highlanders received some good news this week.
Influential flank Adam Thomson takes his place in the starting line-up again after recovering from a rib injury.
Shaun Treeby (centre) and Siale Piutau (wing) have also recovered from injuries.
Des Fountain will have to keep the nippy Piutau at bay.
15 Ben Smith, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Kendrick Lynn, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Siale Piutau, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Alando Soakai, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Chris King, 2 Mo Schwalger, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (captain).
Substitutes: 16 Jason Rutledge, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Nick Crosswell, 19 John Hardie, 20 Aaron Smith, 21 Matt Saunders, 22 Robbie Robinson.
15 Jaco Taute, 14 Dylan des Fountain, 13 Doppies la Grange (captain), 12 Butch James, 11 Deon van Rensburg, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Michael Rhodes, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Wikus van Heerden, 3 Patric Cilliers, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg
Substitutes: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Jacobie Adriaanse, 18 Warren Whiteley, 19 Cobus Grobbelaar, 20 Rory Kockott, 21 Alwyn Hollenbach, 22 Michael Killian