Lions coach Eugene Eloff has named his side to face the Sharks in Johannesburg on Saturday.
In stark contrast to the 15 internationals named in the Sharks squad, Loffie’s team can only boast a pair of Boks in the starting lineup, with the single-cap Heinke van der Merwe and Bok stalwart Jacques Fourie leading the charge. A further two Boks are on the bench, but it’s been a long, long time since either Lawrence Sephaka or Jannes Labuschagne wore the green and gold.
Exciting young tighthead Ross Geldenhuys will get his chance to scrum against the Beast, with arguably the form hooker of the Currie Cup, Willie Wepener and strongman van der Merwe making up the remainder of the front row. The lock crisis in Joburg is starting to bite and although both Anton van Zyl and Franco van der Merwe are individually good players, the combination just feels a little bit light and lacking in punch.
It’s in the loose forwards that the Lions will be as strong as ever, with captain Baywatch Grobbelaar and number 8 Ernst Joubert both crucial to their success. The exciting young Derrick Minnie will be on the blindside this week and will have his hands full containing the force of nature that is Jean Deysel.
Janno Vermaak and Earl Rose will continue at halfback in a combination that is really starting to flourish and they will have a crucial role to play this week, particularly on defence. Question marks around Rose’s defence will need to be emphatically answered this week as the Sharks look to unleash Steyn, Deysel and Kankowski through the flyhalf channel. Doppies le Grange adds another potential defensive weakness outside of Rose, although the man one space wider, Fourie, is pure class as we all know.
There’s a welcome return to the side for fullback Louis Ludick, who forms an exciting back three with wingers Michael Killian and Trompie Nontshinga.
The Lions are a team who are playing good rugby and riding the crest of a wave at the moment, but on paper at least, one would have to say this bunch doesn’t stand much chance of rolling the Sharks.
Rugby isn’t played on paper, though…
15 Louis Ludik, 14 Michael Killian, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Doppies la Grange, 11 Trompie Nontshinga, 10 Earl Rose, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Derrick Minnie, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar (capt), 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Anton van Zyl, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Heinke van der Merwe.
Subs: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Lawrence Sephaka, 18 Jannes Labuschagne, 19 Justin Wheeler, 20 Chris Jonck, 21 Louis Strydom, 22 Rayno Benjamin.