Lions coach Swys de Bruin seemingly sent out mixed signals over how the feels about his Currie Cup opposition on Saturday at Ellis Park – the Free State Cheetahs.
The men from Bloemfontein have paid them the compliment of recalling all their Pro14 stars for the clash, which is effectively a quarterfinal.
The Cheetahs’ approach has raised a few eyebrows, given that they’ve had to play with essentially a C-team for the past six weeks because their top players are involved in the European campaign.
“I must just say that I feel it’s a very interesting thing that you can play in two competitions at the same time,” De Bruin said on Thursday.
“Should they make the Currie Cup final (with their Pro14 players), they’ll have to pick their next best again that week. I’ve said before it’s interesting that some of the Super Rugby teams had to join the Currie Cup race four weeks later because they were still involved in the tournament.”
What De Bruin possibly is trying to say – he hides it quite skilfully – is that the overlapping of tournaments certainly doesn’t help the Currie Cup with prestige and continuity.
But that doesn’t mean the Lions mentor believes the spirit of the competition is being broken by the inconsistent presence of big name players.
“I don’t think that’s really the case,” said De Bruin.
“We want to play against the best. It would’ve been a real disappointment for us if we still had to play against their B- or C-team. Thist young team we have especially wants to measure itself against high-quality opposition.”
It’s not like De Bruin can complain too much anyway as he’s picked the majority of his available Springboks anyway.
Andries Coetzee, Malcolm Marx, Courtnall Skosan and Ross Cronje are all back in the red-and-white, with only Ruan Dreyer missing due to a mild rib injury.
“Tuesday’s training session was great. The national players brought a real sense of urgency to proceedings. We have a brotherhood here. It’s like the players welcomed back big brothers and just want to get out again and play,” said De Bruin.