Loffie Eloff will use former All Blacks flank Paul Henderson as a consultant for the remainder of the Super 14.
Last week the Lions approached Eddie Jones for a similar role but the Australian declined as his Japanese club Suntory required him to start his job as general manager earlier than originally expected.
Henderson, who played for New Zealand in the 1995 World Cup, was used by Eloff in last year’s competition and his familiarity with the set-up will be a bonus.
‘We will use Paul for the rest of the competition,’ Eloff told keo.co.za. ‘Everyone is comfortable with him as he fitted in well last year.
‘We have used him to help with the set-pieces, but this year he’ll have a look at the breakdowns, broken play, as well as helping with skills. It will be good to get some new ideas, but we won’t change too much as the game-plan is working – execution is all that’s lacking,’ said Eloff.
Eloff will still take control of the forwards due to Leon Boshoff’s exit. ‘Leon’s done all the hard work and our set-pieces are solid. The lineout has improved and was brilliant against the Hurricanes, we had a 100% strike rate and stole four of their balls,’ he said.
The Lions received bad news before they departed for Australasia as Bok winger Ashwin Willemse announced his retirement from the game. Eloff denied there was anything sinister in the shock move.
‘There’s never anything funny with Ashwin, he’s straight down the line,’said Eloff.
‘It was a huge surprise when he called me on Monday morning, but he said “Listen coach, I can’t play at this level anymore. My body is sore, I have lower back troubles and my legs are tired”. The timing wasn’t great, but we had to keep in mind the best interests of the player,’ said the coach.
Jannie Boshoff is Willemse’s replacement in the squad and Eloff will either draft in Earl Rose or Shandre Frolick to the starting team to face the Chiefs. Rose’s possible inclusion would necessitate a shuffle in the back three as Louis Ludik would have to move to the wing, and Frolick is likely to get the call.
‘I still have to talk with the captain and management as we have options,’ said Eloff. ‘Shandre does have good pace, but we’ll work on his contact skills as he lost the ball twice in the tackle.’
The Lions have not had the ideal pre-tour build up with the loss to the Hurricanes, Willemse’s retirement, as well as flight troubles.
‘We were supposed to fly out on Monday night – there was nothing available on Sunday – but that got cancelled and instead we’ll fly on Tuesday morning. We lose two days training, but maybe it will help as jetlag is only supposed to hit on the fifth or sixth day [Sunday or Monday].
‘It will be interesting managing the players, we told them not to sleep on Monday night so that they rest on the plane, which will help with acclimatising when we land.’
By Grant Ball