The Golden Lions preparations ahead of Craven Week, which begins on 28 June, have gone reasonably well, according to head coach Gollie Gouws.
He said the 18-3 win over the Blue Bulls at the Bondedag last week indicated that they have now arrived at their best combination and that there has been a pleasing improvement in the level of their play in the three warm-up games. The Lions beat the Leopards 24-13 and the Valke 38-25 in earlier matches.
‘It’s never easy to create a cohesive team in the short time we have available, but I think we showed against the Bulls last week that we can play constructive rugby,’ he told keo.co.za. ‘We made a few changes throughout the process and last week it all came together for us against the Bulls.’
Gouws says their forwards were particularly good and that he was pleased with the number of opportunities the team created.
‘We did not use all the chances that came our way, however, and there is still plenty for us to work on before the Craven Week.’
The team is currently at a three-day training camp at King Edward school. They will then get a week off before going into camp for three days again towards the end of next week.
Gouws believes there are pros and cons to the situation that they find themselves in, with so many players coming from one school – Monument.
‘Obviously it’s useful to have players from the same school in the various combinations,’ he said. ‘We don’t have the time to build the sort of understanding needed and it helps that they some players know each other so well already.
‘On the other hand, however, it is a disadvantage to the players from other schools who have no choice but to fit in with their style of play. There is always a danger that players will fall back into a game plan they are used to instead of the one we decide on for a particular game. This is even more so when so many come from one school.’
Gouws has no illusions about the size of the challenge the side face in their opening game against Western Province on the first day of the week.
‘There a few SA Schools players from last year still in their side and they have a powerful front row,’ he said. ‘They also have the advantage that most of their players of colour are there on their own merits.
‘On the other hand, Province have over the years never done well early in the week when they play away from home – the conditions are often very foreign to them – so it’s a good thing to meet them on day one.
‘We know that the result of this game is vital because the winner will be matched with another winning team in their second game, and have an inside track to a place in the main game.’
Golden Lions U18 – 15 Mauritz van Rooyen (Monument), 14 Wian Fourie (Florida), 13 Gideon Muller (Florida), 12 Ruan Venter (Monument), 11 Paul Willemse (Monument), 10 Stefan Nel (Monument), 9 Fabian Booysen (Florida), 8 Ruan Steenkamp (Monument), 7 Vian van der Watt (Florida), 6 Marais Schmidt (Monument), 5 Chad de Klerk (Monument), 4 Sebastian van Heerden (Helpmekaar), 3 Jako Viljoen (Monument), 2 Tshepo Mooki (Florida), 1 Kazlo Holtzhauzen (KES).
Subs: 16 Rikus van Niekerk (Monument), 17 Bonni Siyotula (Jeppe), 18 Kojo Asiedu-Darkwah (KES), 19 Tiaan MacDonald (Monument), 20 Hanco Venter (Monument), 21 Sifiso Shabangu (Jeppe), 22 Lonwabo Ntleki (KES).
By Gauteng correspondent