Lions coach Eugene Eloff is hoping the notoriously unpredictable Johannesburg weather, which has been particularly foul in the last fortnight, will clear up before Friday’s Super 14 opener against the Cheetahs.
Eloff, despite declaring that he is satisfied with his team’s pre-season build-up, readily acknowledges that the “big test” will come on Friday.
“Every coach will tell you we have done everything in our power to get the guys as fit as possible, and as ready as can be,” Eloff told rugby365.com’s Jan De Koning that, adding: “But Friday night the players will take to the field and only then will you get a good idea of where you stand and where you fit into this bigger picture of the Super 14.”
Even though the Lions and Cheetahs team that will meet on Friday closely resemble the teams that did battle in the Currie Cup last year, Eloff feels this will be very different – a much bigger stage.
“This is Super 14 rugby, the tempo is much faster and it is much tougher than Currie Cup rugby,” Eloff said, also pointing out that will be a few Springboks back that didn’t play in the Currie Cup.
The Lions will be able to lean on seasoned Boks like Jaque Fourie and Ashwin Willemse, with another veteran, André Pretorius set to play off the bench.
Eloff said these players have already made an impact and will continue to play key roles throughout the tournament.
“Any player of that calibre brings something special to the team.
“They bring experience and a calmness among the younger players,” he added.
Reiterating that he has done all he could in the build-up, having completed the pre-season preparations last Wednesday, Eloff said his biggest concern is the weather.
“We just want the weather to play along, so it can be a good game of rugby in Johannesburg,” he said about the climate – where a notorious Highveld thunderstorm can turn any game into a lottery.
With the exception of veteran Springbok lock Jannes Labuschagne, who won’t play this week after a small surgical procedure to drain fluids from his knee, the Lions are otherwise injury free.
Labuschagne could come into the selection frame for the Round Two match against the Sharks in Durban.
The good news is that veteran Bok flyhalf Andre Pretorius has completed his rehabilitation from a foot injury that sidelined him for all of 2008 and will feature in the matchday 22 – but probably off the bench. Eloff maintains that with Pretorius not having played for more than a year, the best way back is through careful management off the bench … as an impact player.
The same applies to lock Gerhard Mostert, who will also make his comeback from injury off the bench.Tweet