Injuries have ruled out Jaque Fourie and Baywatch Grobbelaar from the Lions’ team to face the Reds.
Fourie left the pitch after half an hour against the Blues after receiving a finger in the eye and Ernst Joubert – who took over from Fourie – will lead the side at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday. Fourie has been in devastating form this season and has enjoyed an extended injury-free run, but now a wobbly Lions side have been robbed of two of their best players and leaders.
Grobbelaar’s ankle injury saw him ruled out of last week’s mauling and his fetching abilities were sorely missed. Coach Loffie Eloff was confident Grobbelaar would only sit out the solitary game but they will have to do without his services again.
Joubert will probably start at blindside flanker with Todd Clever and Willem Alberts completing the loose-trio. Joubert last captained the team in week six last year against the self-same Reds before an injury ruled him out for the rest of the season.
Grobbelaar will be a big loss in countering All Blacks opensider Daniel Braid, but Joubert is confident his poaching abilities will be neutralised.
‘We already missed Baywatch last week,’ Joubert told keo.co.za, ‘but in South Africa we have many loosies so we’ll fill the gap.
‘Daniel and Baywatch are in the same class and are similar players, but Todd did brilliantly against the Blues. He is also lighter and gets across the park and he can perform a similar role.’
Although Braid may be in a side that lie 13th on the log, he has been one standout and his scavenging last week thwarted numerous Highlanders’ attacks. Joubert is fully aware of his abilities.
‘Daniel’s a great player and although the Reds may have struggled at times, he’s never stopped going. You look at him in previous years with the Blues behind a big pack and you see how good he is. But all the games we’ve watched this season for the Reds he’s been one of their main threats,’ said Joubert.
The Queenslanders have looked to adopt a brand of semi-touch rugby in spreading the ball from side to side to avoid contact. Joubert expects a similar approach this week and he realises the Lions’ defence – which has leaked 16 tries in their last three matches – must improve drastically.
‘They’ll definitely try take the ball away from our pack, as we do have quite heavy forwards,’ he said. ‘I must admit sides have been successful against us going wide, but we’ve emphasised that this week. We’ve looked at our width defence and we know we must get in their faces and place pressure.
‘Defence is also an attitude thing in those one-on-one tackles. We’ve also looked at gang tackling and using two-on-one tackles. We must minimise their space and work harder in defence,’ said an honest Joubert.
The week started off wet in Brisbane and has since cleared up, but Joubert believes humidity will still be a factor even though it is later in the year.
‘The weather has got warmer and better but it doesn’t make a difference with humidity. The ball will still be slippery when handling, similar to playing the Sharks in Durban.’
Meanwhile, the only good news in terms of team personnel should see centre Doppies la Grange and lock Jannes Labuschagne returning to the team. La Grange could start at 12 with Deon van Rensburg – who made his run-on debut last week – shifting to outside centre in Fourie’s place to face Digby Ioane.
By Grant Ball