Petoors still integral to Lions

Flamboyant flyhalf Andre Pretorius has yet to be contracted to the Springboks, but will play off the bench in the Lions game against Griquas on Saturday.

Having struggled back from injury and inspired the Lions to a domestic revival, Pretorius deservedly earned a national call-up for the home leg of the Vodacom Tri-Nations. His attacking influence made an immediate difference to the previously rudderless Bok backline, and his all-round kicking ability gave the side a few more options.

“He played very well in those two games against New Zealand and Australia, and will add a lot of value to our side now that he’s been released to play Currie Cup rugby,” Lions coach Eugene Eloff told keo.co.za.

“I’ve given him five days off to rest, but he will play off the bench this weekend against Griquas at Ellis Park.”

Pretorius is still in the Bok mix and will join Chiliboy Ralepelle, Johann Muller, Butch James, Ruan Pienaar, BJ Botha, and Pierre Spies in attending the national training camp once a week.

But the speedy pivot will play a vital part to the Lions title campaign in the coming weeks, as they try to edge the Vodacom Blue Bulls off their fourth-place standing and secure a playoff berth.

“The game against Western Province next week will be the big one,” said Eloff. “I’m very happy with the way the guys have been playing, and believe that we have a good chance of making it into the semi-finals.”

The big match against Vodacom Western Province will be redundant if the Lions don’t pick up the points against Griquas this weekend, but Eloff is certain they have the quality and depth to ensure the win.

“I want to bring Andre back slowly, and that is why he will be on the bench. Jaco [van Schalkwyk] has been playing well at flyhalf since Andre was called up to the Boks, so I am confident that he will do the job for us once again.”

The Lions have made seven changes to the team that beat the Valke 32-17 in Brakpan. A couple of these changes are due to the Springbok blackout, with Wayne Julies and Ricky Januarie joining the Bok camp. As a result, Doppies La Grange and Nic Eyre return to the starting line-up.

The other changes include Wylie Human coming in for Grant Esterhuizen on the wing, and Franco van der Merwe dropping to the bench for Cobus Grobler. The two starting props from the Valke game are now amongst the reserves, with Lawrence Sephaka and Marius Hurter set to start in Jo’burg.

Lions: 15. Earl Rose, 14. Wylie Human, 13. Jaco Pretorius, 12. Doppies la Grange, 11. Louis Ludik, 10. Jaco van Schalkwyk, 9. Nicholas Eyre, 8. Ernst Joubert, 7. Cobus Grobbelaar, 6. Wikus van Heerden (c), 5. Anton van Zyl, 4. Cobus Grobler, 3. Marius Hurter, 2. Ethienne Reynecke, 1. Lawrence Sephaka. Reserves: 16. James van der Walt, 17. Heinke van der Merwe, 18. Bertus Smit, 19. Franco van der Merwe, 20. Jano Vermaak, 21. André Pretorius, 22. Thobela Mdaka.

By Jon Cardinelli