Lions make five changes
With the odds firmly stacked against them, the MTN Lions have given three young turks a run as they made no less than five changes to the side that went down against the Brumbies for this weekend’s clash against the Chiefs in Hamilton.
Coach John Mitchell has rewarded the form of flanker Grant Hattingh, scrumhalf Ross Cronje and lock Ruan Botha as he reshuffles his side to face the New Zealanders in his former hometown after a long flight over.
The Lions will start as massive underdogs against the Vodacom Super Rugby log leaders, and few will give them a chance against a team that has been playing so well throughout this competition.
But Mitchell used the same sense of camaraderie amongst a lost cause to rally the troops on last year’s tour where a seemingly hopeless cause turned into some passionate performances by the Lions.
Hattingh will make his first run-on start at blindside flank, with Derick Minnie moving back into his favoured openside position and Cobus Grobbelaar dropping down to the bench.
Hendrik Roodt has been dropped again with Ruan Botha moving into the side, and Franco van der Merwe swopping jersey numbers to make way for the switch while Tian Meyer also drops to the bench to make way for Ross Cronje at halfback.
The Lions are also waiting on a late fitness test for young Caylib Oosthuizen, and will give him as much time as is necessary before ruling him out. If he cannot prove his fitness then JC Janse van Rensburg will make a long-awaited return from injury to bolster the Lions front row.
However, with so little expected from the tourists, their best element could be surprise, coupled with Mitchell’s knowledge of local conditions to perhaps come close and hold their own in the game.
MTN Lions team: Andries Coetzee, Deon van Rensburg, Jaco Taute, Alwyn Hollenbach, Lionel Mapoe; Elton Jantjies, Ross Cronje; Josh Strauss (capt), Grant Hattingh, Derick Minnie, Ruan Botha, Franco van der Merwe, Patric Cilliers, Callie Visagie, Caylib Oosthuizen/JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements: Martin Bezuidenhout, CJ Van der Linde, Cobus Grobbelaar, Jaco Kriel, Tian Meyer, James Kamana, Michael Killian