Inspirational Lions captain Warren Whiteley’s call-up to the Springbok squad in Argentina has opened the door for Willie Britz at eighthman.
A rotational switch will see the in-form Jaco Kriel move to the bench and make way for Warwick Tecklenburg, while Derick Minnie have been given the captain’s armband as he completes the loose trio.
“Willie has been waiting for an opportunity for a long time and he is definitely our second eighthman. We are also happy that Warren has been given the chance with the Springboks,” Ackermann said.
“We said we wanted to rotate some of the players from the second week and Warwick will rotate with Jaco.
“I know Jaco is in great form but we wanted to do this to ensure we have fresh players in reserve in case we make the playoffs.”
The Lions were among the early pace-setters after two comprehensive victories over the Blue Bulls and the Eastern Province Kings.
The Johannesburg side ran in nine tries over the weekend for a 60-19 demolition of the Kings, although Ackermann said his charges still had to work hard for the victory.
“We were good at times where we held onto the ball, and finished when the opportunities presented themselves, but it wasn’t as easy as the score may suggest” he said.
“At the beginning, our handling wasn’t that good but as the game progressed we started to do the basics right. We got quick ruck ball and we were generally satisfied with the victory but there is still a lot of work ahead for us.”
Whiteley is the second Lions player to be called up by the Springboks, after flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff made his international debut off the bench against Scotland, in Port Elizabeth, in June.
The Lions were effectively without two of their stalwarts after Boshoff had since been ruled out with a fractured right arm.
Ackermann said while it was a major setback to lose two of their most influential players so early in the competition, it was an opportunity for other players to come to the fore.
“It is never ideal to lose players that are in form and of that quality but it is the right opportunity for players to be exposed to top flight rugby with an eye on Super Rugby,” Ackermann said.
“We could, for example, have three flyhalves with experience — Bossie (Boshoff) has Super Rugby behind his name, Elton Jantjies has international and overseas experience, and Jaco van der Walt will have the Currie Cup behind him.”
The Lions mentor said Whiteley deserved his call-up to the national squad as he epitomised hard work and, although he did not feature in this weekend’s Springbok team to play Argentina, Ackermann was confident the player’s time would come.
“His call-up is a reward for hard work. He is a great guy off the field and even if he doesn’t get an opportunity this weekend, I believe he will in future because he has all the qualities to make it.
“Hopefully young people will see that the Lions is also a place where you can get to the green and gold. We know it takes a team effort but this should be a message to young people that you can get there through hard work because Warren embodies that.”
Lions team: Andries Coetzee, Lionel Mapoe, Stokkies Hanekom, Harold Vorster, Ruan Combrinck, Jaco van der Walt, Ross Cronje, Willie Britz, Warwick Tecklenburg, Derick Minnie (captain), Franco Mostert, MB Lusaseni, Ruan Dreyer, Robbie Coetzee, Schalk van der Merwe.
Replacements: Armand van der Merwe, Jacques van Rooyen, Martin Muller, Jaco Kriel, Guy Cronje, Kwagga Smith, Howard Mnisi.