Lions still testing combinations
With the season still in its infancy, the Golden Lions continue to test different combinations, fielding six changes to the starting XV against the Bulls in a warm-up match at Orlando Stadium on Saturday.
“We went with the rotation system and it is our strongest side if you consider the last two weeks, but it is not done and dusted yet,” coach Johan Ackermann said in Soweto on Thursday.
The most notable change is at pivot where a positional change had been made for the third consecutive week.
Marnitz Boshoff, who played fullback in last week’s match against the Cheetahs, replaces Guy Cronje at flyhalf while Michael Bondesio replaces Cronje’s brother Ross at scrumhalf.
“The flyhalf is one of the rotation things that will conclude this weekend because the first game I gave Lionel Cronje a start, the second game I told Guy that he would start and I told Marnitz he would start the third game,” Ackermann said.
“We will see how Marnitz uses his opportunity and then we will make a decision for next week.”
Andries Coetzee will wear the number 15 jersey with Deon Helberg completing the back trio as he replaces Ruhan Nel on the wing.
Saturday’s match will also see a new lock combination with Franco Mostert and Hendrik Roodt replacing Hugo Kloppers and Gavin Annandale respectively.
As the five South African franchises are preparing for this year’s Super Rugby competition, the Lions had taken a similar approach to their season as they viewed the opening matches of the year as warm-up matches.
“Coming back from the American tour the team will really settle down and get some momentum going,” the Lions coach said.
“It is also like a longer pre-season but we have the responsibility to perform because the supporters are disappointed about last year and we don’t want to disappoint them any further.”
The Lions will play their first match in the United States on April 13 against an American invitational team in California, and then play three more matches in the US before their return to South African soil.
In their first two matches, the Lions had shown a knack for an expansive style of rugby which paid off as they triumphed in both clashes.
However, Ackermann said he would still introduce new ideas as their season progressed.
“We have a few ideas and we know people will analyse and, therefore, we have some ideas which we will implement in some of the games to evolve a bit,” he said.
“Heyneke (Meyer) had the philosophy that the sides can know what we do but they still have to stop us.
“In our mission statement we said that we want to be a side that plays winning rugby but attractive rugby.”
Lions team: Andries Coetzee, Deon Helberg, Stokkies Hanekom, Alwyn Hollenbach, Anthony Volmink, Marnitz Boshoff, Michael Bondesio, Willie Britz, Derick Minnie, Jaco Kriel, Franco Mostert, Hendrik Roodt, Ruan Dreyer, Francois du Toit, JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: Robbie Coetzee, Jacques van Rooyen, JJ Breet, Warwick Tecklenburg, Ross Cronje, Lionel Cronje, Ruhan Nel.