Lions have a point to prove
MTN Lions captain JC Janse van Rensburg’s answer at the press conference on Friday to announce the team to face the Toyota Cheetahs, said it all.
“We want to do well whenever we play in a Lions jersey and there will always be a bit of extra competition when you play a South African team. It will be hard and tough, but the whole week we were working on some new stuff and as a team we want to do what we want to do on Saturday.
“But obviously we want to prove a point against the Cheetahs.”
While this is the first pre-season game for the Cheetahs, the Lions are into their second game of the Lions Challenge, and although coach Johan Ackermann has used the rest of his squad to bulk up after last week’s win over Russia, there is no doubt the home side will want to remind the rest of South Africa just how much they deserve to be in Vodacom Super Rugby.
In a week when the Cheetahs issued a press release to show that they and the Lions had “renewed their friendship” after the animosity that ruled when the Cheetahs turned their backs on the Lions and were part of the majority to vote them out of Super Rugby, it is unlikely the Lions will feel any sympathy for their opposition when they get on the field.
The Lions will take to the park looking like the Lions of old, scrapping their “panels” jersey designed by Gilbert after dropping the apparel maker a week into the season and announcing a new deal with Canterbury on Friday afternoon.
But whether or not they can dismantle a Cheetahs side with so much experience, something the Lions tight five especially are lacking, waits to be seen.
The Lions will have a lot of fire in their bellies, especially with the return of Alwyn Hollenbach in the backline, and Marnitz Boshoff trying his hand at fullback.
But in essence the match may mean more to the Lions than the Cheetahs, who are only starting their preparations for Super Rugby, while coach Johan Ackermann will have a much better idea afterwards how many of his youngsters are up to the task.
And if they are, the Lions may do a decent job reminding the rest of the country they aren’t yesterday’s men.
MTN LIONS TEAM
Marnitz Boshoff, Ruhan Nel, Stokkies Hanekom, Alwyn Hollenbach, Anthony Volminck, Guy Cronje, Ross Cronje, Willie Britz, Derick Minnie, Jaco Kriel, Hugo Kloppers, Gavin Annandale, Ruan Dreyer, Francois du Toit, JC Janse van Rensburg (capt)
Replacements: Robbie Coetzee, Jacques van Rooyen, JJ Breet, Claude Tshidibi, Michael Bondesio, Lionel Cronje, Andries Coetzee