Vodacom Super Rugby
Mitchell blames woeful lineouts
John Mitchell (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Lions coach John Mitchell freely admits that his side's atrocious lineout performances in this year's Super Rugby competition have cost his side dearly.
Mitchell has had to contend with numerous injuries to his lock forwards and, as a result, has fielded five different combinations so far this season.
The Johannesburg-based side could be forced, for the umpteenth time, to hand another inexperienced youngster a premature Super Rugby debut with newly recruited University of Stellenbosch (Maties) lock Grant Hattingh having been selected on the bench.
The injury situation at lock had reached comical proportions as the Lions lost both Stephan Greeff and Marius Coetzer in their last match against the Bulls at Coca-Cola Park.
"The core issue in the whole competition has been the non-delivery of a lineout, and the throwers have to take a lot of responsibility for that," Mitchell said.
"That's their job, and it's had a knock-on effect on the rest of the team.
"Clearly we like attacking, we just had the inability to get through a lot of attack as a result of a poor lineout.
"We've had to come from a lot more chaos than normal."
Mitchell said if his charges could deliver a decent lineout it would ultimately have a positive effect on how they play.
"I'd rather be straight up and honest about it - it's been a core issue," he said.
The Lions coach, however, had something to smile about ahead of their Super Rugby match against the Brumbies at home on Friday as he only made two changes to the run-on side.
Consistency in selection had also been a problem but, with the majority of the team unchanged from their previous match, they would be able to take advantage of some continuity in the line-up.
"It is a blessing in trying to be consistent in selection and the front lock is the area that we've changed through injury," Mitchell said.
"I just think if I stick with the guys and they give that continuity it will help us get that performance."
Lionel Mapoe replaces James Kamana on left wing, while Hendrik Roodt receives a starting berth at lock in place of Stephan Greeff.
"Clearly James Kamana has suffered because of his last performance," said Mitchell.
"Michael Killian comes in after becoming fit again and we've put Jacobie (Adriaanse) back because he got back after he became match fit after the Vodacom Cup and we've got a new lock/loose forward Grant Hattingh, who we got from the Western Cape.
"The timing for Lionel is right. He wasn't that sharp in his first two performances but bear in mind he didn't have a full 80 minutes and he's looking a lot sharper."
Mitchell said he also received some good news on players returning from injury before his team embark on their tour of Australasia after the weekend.
"Paul Willemse is not quite right but he is not far away, and Ruan Botha is likely to make the tour," he said.
"So we're getting some lock stocks back, but they are very young, so it is important not to expose them when they are not fully fit."
Coetzee, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11
Lionel Mapoe, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Joshua Strauss
(captain), 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4
Hendrik Roodt, 3 Patric Cilliers, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Caylib Oosthuizen
16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Jacobie Adriaans, 18 Grant Hattingh, 19
Christo le Roux, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Butch James, 22 Michael Killian