The Lions have brought in prop Eugene Maqwelana for Friday’s clash against the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Before they left on tour Lions coach Loffie Eloff told keo.co.za that he would try play his strongest team at all times and this change suggests that Maqwelana’s Vodacom Cup form has been deemed better than that of Ross Geldenhuys, who has started all the Super 14 games this year. Geldenhuys is not being rested as the Lions had their bye last week and he has been named on the bench.
To give Maqwelana his Super Rugby debut against the Highlanders is highly risky as the the scrum has been the Kiwi team’s one positive in a winless season, and the former Spears tighthead will face the massive Jamie Mackintosh. This is the one game the Lions would have been eyeing for a win as another four away matches lie in wait after this – including play-off contenders the Crusaders and Hurricanes – while the Highlanders seem vulnerable after suffering their biggest loss of the season to the Chiefs last week. To give the Highlanders a possible forward advantage in this basement-battle seems highly questionable from the Lions, as this could literally put them on the back foot from the onset of their tour.
The only other change to the starting team sees Willem Alberts coming in at No 8, while Joe van Niekerk will switch to the seven jersey in place of injured flank Ernst Joubert. Lock forward Dewald Senekal replaces Alberts on the bench.
Lions - 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Dusty Noble, 13 Jaco Pretorius, 12 Walter Venter, 11 Rayno Benjamin, 10 Jaco van Schalkwyk, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Willem Alberts , 7 Joe van Niekerk, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar (captain), 5 Gerhard Mostert, 4 Anton van Zyl, 3 Eugene Maqwelana, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Heinke van der Merwe.
Subs: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Ross Geldenhuys, 18 Dewald Senekal, 19 Franco van der Merwe, 20 Chris Jonck, 21 Rudi Vogt, 22 Jannie Boshoff.
By Grant Ball