Highly regarded playmaker Andre Pretorius is expected to start from the bench when the Lions open their 2009 Super 14 challenge against the Cheetahs at Coca-Cola Park on Friday.
It is understood Pretorius will fill the role of impact player, with Springbok tourist Earl Rose wearing the No 10 jersey.
Jacques van der Westhuyzen writes for The Star that Pretorius, who has declined media interviews in the build-up to this year’s tournament, spent the whole of last season on the sidelines nursing his way back to fitness following a string of injuries.
The 30-year-old flyhalf, who has won 32 Test caps, has not played a rugby match in over 12 months and was even rested by Lions boss Eugene Eloff when the side squared up to the Bulls in a pre-season friendly two weeks ago.
Eloff said at the time there was no point in risking the injury-plagued flyhalf in a friendly match, preferring to keep Pretorius fit for the match on Friday.
It now seems Eloff, as well as Pretorius, feels it is a better option for the veteran to start from the bench and thus ease him back into action.
Pretorius has been training with his teammates in the build-up to kickoff. All he was prepared to say this week when quizzed about his readiness for action was: “I’m feeling good. I’m kicking well and ready to play.”
When asked whether he would be starting the match against the Cheetahs, Pretorius simply said: “Probably from the bench.”
One player who will certainly not play a part on Friday is veteran lock Jannes Labuschagne.
The big second row forward, whom Eloff was banking on to fill the role of the bruiser in the mould of the Bulls’ Bakkies Botha, underwent minor knee surgery this week.
Water build-up in the knee area had to be drained. He is expected to be out for about six weeks.
Labuschagne was due to start in the second row with Anton van Zyl, but in all likelihood, Van Zyl will now be joined by Gerhard Mostert.
Two other players who won’t be considered for the Lions’ first match are lock Dewald Senekal and loose forward Ernst Joubert, both of whom are on the comeback following injury.
The Lions boss will pick a largely familiar looking side for his team’s competition opener with veteran wings Ashwin Willemse and Henno Mentz in the No 14 and No 11 jerseys respectively.
In midfield, Doppies la Grange will team up with Jaque Fourie, the Springbok also back in the team after a 2008 season riddled by injury.
Up front, Gert Muller will anchor the scrum at tighthead, with Willie Wepener and Heinke van der Merwe to his left.
The loose forwards will be Cobus Grobbelaar and Franco van der Merwe on the flanks and big Willem Alberts at No 8.Tweet