In order to avoid a potential selection curve-ball, Lions coach Cash van Rooyen has picked both his squad’s centre stars, Burger Odendaal and Wandisile Simelane, in midfield for their Super Rugby Unlocked clash against the surging Bulls at Ellis Park on Saturday.
Both players have recently received Man of the Match awards, and after Simelane’s brilliant performance against Griquas last week, he simply couldn’t be dropped, so Odendaal has been moved back inside to 12, potentially creating an exciting combination with Simelane.
“Burger was in great form in the first two rounds and then had to sit out one week,” Van Rooyen said after naming his team on Wednesday.
“Dan (Kriel) was also good last week, so it’s a basic rotation, while Wandi deserved another opportunity after his good performance last week.”
As a former Bulls captain who was shown the door in Pretoria, Odendaal might have a point to prove.
Van Rooyen, however, said it was important to take the emotion out of it.
“There are a few guys who have a history with the Bulls and he is one of the more recent ones,” he said.
“We are excited about how he goes with Wandi as a combination against the Bulls.”
After the Bulls’ powerful performance against the Stormers last week, the Lions are bracing themselves for a big physical battle, but they also trust their own ability.
“Our scrum is improving every week and it will be a great battle this weekend against a senior pack with good quality Boks, while Jacques van Rooyen is in good form and Trevor Nyakane is looking great,” Van Rooyen said.
“We are excited about the scrum challenge. Both teams use it as a weapon to attack and get penalties and it’s set to be a great contest.”
The biggest focal point ahead of this weekend’s clash is at the breakdown, while the collisions are one area where Bulls captain Duane Vermeulen and flank Marco van Staden have looked ominous.
“The Bulls thrive on momentum and they also want to stop your tempo and slow your ball down on attack, and we all know Duane and Marco are great on the ground,” Van Rooyen said.
But the Lions are aware of that threat and have been prepping for it.
They are also excited about hooker Jaco Visagie, who has started stealing ball, and even lock Ruben Schoeman stole a ball or two last week.
“So I think rugby is moving that way in any case, and we are getting some reward on the ground,” Van Rooyen said.
“So we know what challenge is coming and we did make one or two plans around that on attack and rucking wise.
“If we allow them to dominate the collisions and control the rucks it will be a different situation for us on attack.”
Lions team: Gianni Lombard; Stean Pienaar, Wandisile Simelane, Burger Odendaal, Courtnall Skosan; Elton Jantjies (captain), Morné van den Berg; Len Massyn, Vincent Tshituka, MJ Pelser, Marvin Orie, Ruben Schoeman, Carlu Sadie, Jaco Visagie, Sti Sithole. Bench: PJ Botha, Nathan McBeth, Ruan Dreyer, Reinhard Nothnagel, Marnus Schoeman, Ross Cronjé, Dan Kriel, Tiaan Swanepoel.