Vodacom Super Rugby
Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Pretorius to save Lions?
Johannesburg - Forgotten Springbok Andre Pretorius has been given the chance to steer the MTN Lions ship in the right direction - starting this Saturday against the Reds at Coca Cola Park.
Pretorius was drafted in after coach John Mitchell dropped young upstart Elton Jantjies following the defeat to the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld last week.
Jantjies had a solid game, but contributed to the defeat with elementary errors, one of which led to the try. While Mitchell said after the game he would not blame the defeat on any individual, the coach has obviously decided that more experience is needed to play the game at the right end of the field.
The Lions have been exciting at stages this season, especially on the counter from ball kicked at them.
But as often as they have looked good, they have lacked the tactical nuance to choose their moments, running often from suicidal positions which has placed them under immense pressure and cost them points.
Pretorius can play the running game, but he is a lot more savvy with the tactical boot, something Mitchell is hoping will aid his charges on Saturday.
“I felt it was time to bring a little bit more composure and better decision making to the team. We want to spend more time in the contest and at the moment we need to get into the right territorial spot to play the football we want,” Mitchell said at the team announcement on Thursday.
“It is probably a chance for Elton to regenerate mentally and physically. He has carried a bit load in terms of his development and it is a different situation. We want him to learn and realise nothing comes by right, you actually have to earn it.”
Mitchell believes Jantjies, while a fine talent with the ball, needs to learn to control a game better.
“He has contributed enormously but what he has to learn is to control the game. That’s what I’m asking from Andre, is to control the game. I’m asking him to be the driver.
“Elton probably had his best performance overall against the Bulls last weekend and he is a young man with a great future, but he has to stand up and become a leader. At the moment he is probably just contributing to the performance rather than controlling the game,” Mitchell explained.
“He probably needs to read the opposition wings and fullback a lot better to make sure we play football at the right end of the field.”
Mitchell said he knew what he had in Pretorius, but had “worked him hard” before giving him a bite at the Super Rugby carrot again.
“Well, I did buy him at the Force, didn’t I? I’ve done my homework on him and I appreciate what he has to offer. We haven’t made it easier on him; we’ve made him work in the Vodacom Cup like others as well.
“With everyone, including the captaincy, you are judged by your performance and by winning. We need to be accurate and we want someone to control the game.”
Mitchell said he knew his side would face an attacking onslaught from the Reds, but said he was confident their defence would be enough.
“We are going to be challenged defensively, but we are ready for that. We’ve got a plan that we’ve been working on and we believe our defence will be the catalyst for our attack.
“We need to become more accurate in our play and clearly if the contest is in the balance we need to be at the right end of the football field. We need to have the right position to create pressure on the opposition. We were unable to do this against the Bulls when our lineout broke down.
“We’ve been doing well living off kick receipts but I’d like to see the whole game come together. I’d like to think it comes this week.”