Elton back for Lions
MTN Lions coach Johan Ackermann has named kingpin flyhalf Elton Jantjies in his side to face the Southern Kings in the first leg of their Vodacom Super Rugby promotion/relegation match in Port Elizabeth on Friday.
Jantjies, who has had a less than successful season at the DHL Stormers, and was dropped for the final league game against the Vodacom Bulls, has returned to Johannesburg to help the Lions through these games but still has to make a decision on his future.
Ackermann, who has kept a low profile and gained momentum with several victories under the radar in recent weeks, also has named returning Franco van der Merwe and Martin Bezuidenhout in the team, as he chose his strongest available squad for the game that will determine the Lions’ future.
Van der Merwe has had a good season for the Sharks this year, and made the Springbok squad on the basis of those performances while Bezuidenhout played for the Stormers on loan during the Super Rugby season.
But now that the league fixtures are over, all three are back with the Lions, who also welcome back Hendrik Roodt at lock, scrumhalf Michael Bondesio and flanker Warren Whiteley.
Roodt has just recovered from a bout of German measles, Bondesio has overcome a calf injury while Whiteley is back after playing for the Springbok Sevens team earlier in the year.
Friday's clash has a bigger importance than just a spot in next year's Super Rugby competition as it could also spell the difference between survival and extinction for either the Lions or the Kings.
The Lions desperately need a win if they are to survive as a union.
Their sponsors have stuck with them, but if they are out of Super Rugby for a second year, the union is likely to face an uphill battle to sell tickets, suites and maintain the level of sponsorship they currently have.
In the same breath considering the good work done by the Southern Kings this season, a loss for them in these matches would send them back to the wilderness, and they would have to wait until 2016 before they are likely to get a permanent crack at a Super Rugby franchise.
MTN LIONS: 15. Ruan Combrinck, 14. Deon van Rensburg, 13. Stokkies Hanekom, 12. Dylan des Fountain, 11. Anthony Volmink, 10. Elton Jantjies, 9. Michael Bondesio, 8. Warren Whiteley, 7. Derrick Minnie, 6. Jaco Kriel, 5. Franco van der Merwe, 4. Hendrik Roodt, 3. Julian Redelinghuys, 2. Martin Bezuidenhout, 1. JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: Robbie Coetzee, Ruan Dreyer, Willie Britz, Warwick Tecklenburg, Ross Cronje, Marnitz Boshoff, Chrysander Botha.