JOHANNESBURG – Injuries to several key players have forced Lions boss Swys de Bruin to make a number of forced changes to his side for tomorrow’s Super Rugby match against the Sunwolves in Singapore.
And he has taken a massive gamble at loose forward by picking two locks – Ruan Vermaak and Stephan Lewies – to play at eighthman and blindside flank respectively.
They join Marnus Schoeman in a new-look front row following the injuries picked up by Kwagga Smith and Vincent Tshituka, both sidelined for up to eight weeks.
And in the front row, the promising Sti Sithole comes in for the injured Dylan Smith, with De Bruin still to name his replacements for the round six match.
He has, however, said that young Hacjivah Dayimani will cover the loose forward positions from off the bench, providing him and his team with some proper insurance for the back-row.
And, among the backs, De Bruin has recalled Nic Groom at scrumhalf and also opted to play Lionel Mapoe at inside centre, alongside Wandisile Simelane, who’ll start his third game in a row.
Sylvian Mahuza also gets an opportunity again on the wing.
He said the Sunwolves would ask the same kind of questions as a New Zealand team.
“We’ve done a good job analysing them, trying to figure of what they’re trying to achieve in the 80 minutes,” said Mahuza.
“They’re a tough side to play against because they almost have the same mentality as us; they don’t ever give up and they keep playing and putting pressure on one.
“They’ve been in Super Rugby for a while now and they know what to do. They have a lot of tricks (in the bag)… and are similar to a New Zealand team; they like spreading the ball to the edges.”
He added the new-look Lions were still trying to find their best form, but that the decision to blood several rookie players this year meant it was going to take some time.
He also said comparing this year’s Lions team to the ones of 2016, 2017 and 2018 that played in three successive finals wasn’t fair.
“It’s difficult to compare the Lions now to the team of previous years. We’ve got a much younger squad this year, with guys in their first season of Super Rugby.
“Last year we were a group of veterans… but we’re in a good space, with several guys putting their hands up. There’s a great energy in the squad and we’re looking forward to playing again this weekend.”
De Bruin said from Singapore on Thursday the hot and humid conditions, together with a threat of lightning, had forced the Lions in-doors to complete their preparations for the match, which kicks off at 1pm SA time on Saturday.
Lions: Tyrone Green, Sylvian Mahuza, Wandisile Simelane, Lionel Mapoe, Courtnall Skosan, Elton Jantjies, Nic Groom, Ruan Vermaak, Stephan Lewies, Marnus Schoeman, Marvin Orie, Rhyno Herbst, Carlu Sadie, Malcolm Marx, Sti Sithole
Replacements to be named.