Doppies la Grange’s return from injury could see him face up to Ma’a Nonu when the Lions take on the Hurricanes.
La Grange missed the Lions’ past two fixtures against the Stormers and Brumbies and coach Loffie Eloff is hoping the centre will be fit when the side is named on Thursday.
Barry Goodes filled La Grange’s No 12 jersey, while last weekend Earl Rose was a replacement in the midfield.
Andre Pretorius and Rose’s use of he boot helped close out the game against the Australians, but starting with the pair in the 10-12 axis would be a defensive liability against All Blacks Nonu and Conrad Smith.
‘I liked the way Earl and Andre ended off against the Brumbies,’ Eloff told keo.co.za, ‘but they won’t start together. I’m hoping Doppies will be back.’
The Hurricanes’ attacking potential is well documented and Eloff is looking for a similar formula to the way they shut out the Brumbies.
‘The game should start relatively conservatively and then when it opens up we can bring Earl on. He and Andre form a good combination and it’s good for Earl to learn from Andre’s experience,’ he said.
Pretorius – as could be expected after an injury-enforced lay-off of over a year – hasn’t hit form but Eloff is confident he will soon.
‘Andre has taken a lot of criticism, but guys miss the number of tackles he makes, the drops he puts over as well as his role in the team,’ said Eloff.
The Bulls adopted a conservative approach to nullify the Canes’ game-breakers in their triumph in Wellington, but Eloff said the Lions would like to mirror their own showing against the Brumbies.
‘The Bulls played a boring style and followed a pattern that frustrated the Hurricanes. They made silly mistakes and gave away penalties, but I’m sure they’ve learnt from that.
‘The Bulls’ recipe is one that works, but we want to build on our own game that worked so well against the Brumbies. We did well at set-piece, showed a lot of urgency and finished better, even though some chances were still missed,’ said Eloff.
If the Lions do adopt a territory-based game, defence will be paramount in keeping the counterattacking backs of the Canes in check.
‘With any kicking game you use must be accurate, if not it changes the whole dynamic of your pattern. But we know no team likes being turned around,’ he said.
The Canes present the last fixture for the Lions before they head overseas and Eloff is aware of the importance of a win before the four-match tour.
‘We’ve only lost one at home and if we get this win on Saturday we’re in a good position.’
Meanwhile, the Lions’ squad to tour Australasia from next week has been announced, with Goodes omitted.
Lions squad – Louis Ludik, Shandré Frolick, Ashwin Willemse, Henno Mentz, Deon van Rensburg, Jaque Fourie, Doppies la Grange, André Pretorius, Earl Rose, Jano Vermaak, Chris Jonck, Ernst Joubert, Willem Alberts, Robert Kruger, Todd Clever, Baywatch Grobbelaar, Franco van der Merwe, Jannes Labuschagne, Gerhard Mostert, Anton van Zyl, Gert Muller, Lawrence Sephaka, Willie Wepener, Hans van Dyk, Heinke van der Merwe, JC van Rensburg.
By Grant Ball