The Lions are set to welcome back senior players Jaque Fourie and Baywatch Grobbelaar to their team to face the Crusaders.
The Lions could knock the Saders out of the play-off race with a win at Ellis Park on Friday and will be buoyed by the return of a number of players. Louis Ludik was the third member of the squad who didn’t complete the Australasian tour that ended with a woeful 55-14 defeat to the Force.
‘The players will have a final fitness test on Wednesday morning,’ Eloff told keo.co.za. ‘Baywatch, Jaque, Louis and Jano Vermaak should all be fine. But it does look as though Henno Mentz [quad injury] will be out.’
Vermaak and Mentz both limped off the park with injuries at Subiaco Oval, and with the tournament’s joint-top try-scorer out, the Lions will lose one of their best finishers. With Fourie back however, Deon van Rensburg could shift from outside centre to cover wing.
With ball in hand the Lions have lacked the usual thrust offered by Fourie in the centres, but their defence has been especially porous without the midfield general. Since leaving the field 30 minutes into the loss to the Blues, the Lions have conceded 15 tries in 210 minutes of rugby – or one every 14.
The Lions were repeatedly attacked in the outside channels by the Force, but the hosts will be more confident with Fourie marshaling the defence. The defending champs have been the least productive of all the sides on attack – only crossing the whitewash on 18 occasions – but they come up against the tournament’s worst defenders.
The Lions have conceded 44 tries in 10 matches and the Saders will be eyeing a bonus point victory to stay in the hunt for a semi.
‘It’s a short week for us and we will have to re-group on defence,’ said Eloff. ‘We will work on the basics and hopefully grind out a win. The key to the Cheetahs’ win over the Crusaders was slowing down their ball as well as their defence – we will have to do the same.’
The Saders have hinted at playing All Blacks fullback Leon MacDonald in the No 10 jersey to ignite their offensive game.
‘I heard they would try that, but I don’t think it will happen,’ said Eloff. ‘It would be an interesting move and he’s a talented player who did a good job as a flyhalf two years ago.’
The Lions will name their side on Wednesday afternoon.
By Grant Ball