The Lions team to play the Valke in Brakpan on Friday night shows four changes from that which defeated the Cheetahs at the weekend.
Grant Esterhuizen, who was an 11th hour replacement for the ill Louis Ludik at left wing against the defending champions, switches to right wing to accommodate the fit-again Ludik. Esterhuizen was one of the stars for the Lions in the 39-28 win, putting in several huge try-saving tackles and is rewarded for that effort with another start.
The other change in the backline sees Springbok Wayne Julies start at inside centre ahead of Doppies la Grange, who reverts to the bench, simply to get some rest.
Up front there is only one tactical change. Lock Cobus Grobler drops to the bench, giving the impressive Franco van der Merwe his first start for the Lions after joining them on loan from the Leopards last month.
The Lions are aiming for a five point haul as they chase the final semi-final spot. They have won four in-a-row and are aiming for their fifth. “We have great momentum at this stage and we obviously want to continue that against the Valke,” coach Eugene Eloff told keo.co.za. “I have decided to rotate a few of the guys. Some deserve a rest and others deserve a chance. I don’t think we are weakening our team in anyway.”
“It’s important for us to get a bonus point as it could prove crucial when everything is tallied up in the end.” The Lions are arguably the form team at the moment. Their pack is evolving into a formidable unit, while flyhalf Jaco van Schalkwyk has made the absence of Andre Pretorius much easier to bear.
At the back, Earl Rose is producing excellent all-round rugby and was the architect of the try of the season so far against the Cheetahs.
Lions team to play the Valke: 15 Earl Rose, 14 Grant Esterhuizen, 13 Jaco Pretorius, 12 Wayne Julies, 11 Louis Ludik, 10 Jaco van Schalkwyk, 9 Ricky Januarie; 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Cobus Grobbelaar, 6 Wikus van Heerden (captain), 5 Anton van Zyl, 4 Franco van der Merwe, 3 Bertus Smit, 2 Ethienne Reynecke, 1 Heinke van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 James van der Walt, 17 Marius Hurter, 18 Cobus Grobler, 19 Pietie Ferreira, 20 Nic Eyre, 21 Doppies la Grange, 22 Mark Harris.
By Andrew Hollely