Lions chase win before tour

FILE PICTURE: Franco Mostert of the Lions wins the kick-in during the Super Rugby match between Lions and Toyota Cheetahs. Picture: Duif du Toit/Gallo Images

FILE PICTURE: Franco Mostert of the Lions wins the kick-in during the Super Rugby match between Lions and Toyota Cheetahs. Picture: Duif du Toit/Gallo Images

With a tough four-week Australasian tour looming, the Lions are in dire need of a victory against the Stormers in their Super Rugby match at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Although Lions coach Johan Ackermann said the eight changes to the run-on side were for tactical reasons, there was a sense of desperation in the move.

Key among the changes was the promotion of flyhalf Elton Jantjies to the starting line-up ahead of Marnitz Boshoff.

Boshoff’s form had gone through a considerable slump since his nightmarish experience in last year’s Currie Cup final against champions Western Province in Cape Town.

To further mix it up, Faf de Klerk had also earned a starting berth ahead of Ross Cronje.

The new halfback combination of De Klerk and Jantjies should place stronger impetus on an attacking approach.

Jantjies would make his return to the starting XV as a leaner and better-conditioned player since his return from Japan.

The 24-year-old not only had a more chiselled look about him but one could sense he had reached maturity, both as a player and a person.

Jantjies said the prospect of returning to the run-on side and making a contribution was one to which he was looking forward.

“It is something I am excited about after I have been away for six or seven months,” Jantjies said.

“I am still following the same process and it is good to be injury free. Last year I had an injury setback and I went for a shoulder operation.

“It is all about doing my thing on the field for the team and I think my performance will speak for itself.”

As a recognised playmaker, Jantjies was expected to conjure up some magic on attack but the flyhalf saw his role as a small cog in the bigger Lions machinery.

“If the opportunity comes to bring something special I will take it but it is for the team to follow the processes,” he said.

“We need to get confidence within the game and it is not about looking at the win and then gaining confidence.”

Jantjies said the Stormers would be a tough prospect for his side as they had developed into a well-balanced team.

“They are a very good defensive side, they always bring physicality and they have smart backs, while their forwards are dominating in the set-piece,” he said.

“That is a good challenge for us. Last year we’ve been leading with our set-pieces.”

Stormers coach Allister Coetzee promoted hooker Bongi Mbonambi and flanker Nizaam Carr from the bench in the only two changes to their starting line-up.

Coetzee said playing a Lions side chasing their first victory, coupled with the altitude, would make it a difficult trip to the Highveld.

“It’s our second challenge at altitude and we’re expecting a very tough encounter against a desperate Lions team who are back at home again,” Coetzee said.

“Yes, we have won two matches but we are not fully satisfied and know that we can get better and must get better if we are to build on our start.”




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