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Rugby | Vodacom Super Rugby

Jantjies return boosts big-change Lions

The MTN Lions will be all smiles knowing that their talismanic flyhalf Elton Jantjies is back in action again after injury robbed them of him when they most needed him.

For a side that prides itself on being a team that plays for each other, it has been rather noticeable that the Lions have struggled without their star performer -- the man who kickstarts all their action.

Like an orchestra without a conductor the Lions have forged ahead, but have been the victims of their own mistakes as they have battled both their own injury woes and a lack of penetration on attack.

But with Jantjies back the picture looks a lot rosier. No longer is it necessary to do a backline shuffle, and no longer does the Lions backline look rudderless.

It is almost as if the pieces fall back into place, even though technically there are nine changes to the side for this weekend’s clash against the Toyota Cheetahs.

There will be no battle bigger than Jantjies’s showdown with Johan Goosen, a battle the Lions flyhalf won in round one when the sides met by slotting a last-minute penalty after Goosen was dispatched with a yellow card to win the game.

But since then the Cheetahs have seen a turnaround in their fortunes, and Goosen has reve;led in the playing opportunities he has received, making the return encounter a mouth-watering prospect.

With Jantjies back it means Butch James returns to inside centre, with Alwyn Hollenbach back on the outside and Jaco Taute back in his preferred fullback position.

And just like that the backline looks a lot more settled.

Up front the big news is the inclusion of 19-year old lock Paul Willemse, who coach John Mitchell hopes will be the key to unlocking their lineout woes. Willemse is the fifth lock to be used in as many matches and replaces Marius Coetzer in the starting line-up.

At loose forward, the introduction of veteran Cobus Grobbelaar means a shift for Derick Minnie to the other side of the scrum, with captain Joshua Strauss taking up his spot at No 8. All this means that the victim of the shift is Warren Whiteley, who falls out of the 22-man squad altogether.

The other change is Callie Visagie swopping with Martin Bezuidenhout at hooker, while James Kamana, who started at fullback but left the field early after he took a hard knock to the head, is on the bench.

MTN Lions: Jaco Taute, Deon van Rensburg, Alwyn Hollenbach, Butch James, Andries Coetzee, Elton Jantjies, Tian Meyer, Joshua Strauss (capt), Derick Minnie, Cobus Grobbelaar, Franco van der Merwe, Paul Willemse, Patric Cilliers, Martin Bezuidenhout, Caylib Oosthuizen.

Replacements:Callie Visagie, Ruan Dreyer, Marius Coetzer, Etienne Oosthuizen, Michael Bondesio, Lionel Mapoe, James Kamana.


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