Butch, tactically, brings something different
The Golden Lions may have lost the services of free-running Springbok flyhalf Elton Jantjies, but that won't cramp their Currie Cup style.
Jantjies, who will be on the bench for the Boks against the Wallabies in Pretoria on Saturday, is one of three Lions players on national duty and unavailable when the defending champions head to Cape Town to take on Western Province on Saturday.
Utility Jaco Taute, who played at inside centre in the win over the Sharks last week, and prop CJ van der Linde, who was on the bench, have joined Jantjies at the Boks.
Lions coach Johan Ackermann said it is "obviously" a setback when you lose players of that calibre.
"However, you never begrudge them that [Bok selection] and it is also a great reflection on the Lions," Ackermann told this website.
The Lions are in the fortunate position that they have quality cover in all those positions, especially at flyhalf. Butch James, a 2007 World Cup winner with the Boks, will ensure the Johannesburg-based outfit remain a major threat on attack.
While Jantjies and James are two different players, the Lions coach believes the selection of the veteran will not necessitate a change in playing style.
"Butch [James], tactically, brings something different, but I we have a style that we play and Butch is comfortable with that," Ackermann told this website.
I have no doubt we will be able to continue with the game plan we have, without any major changes."
He also felt that while they loose some experience with Van der Linde's departure, they are "okay" in the front row.
"We still have Ruan Dreyer as well ... an up-and-coming front row who will make that step up very soon," he said of the man who turned 22 just 10 days ago and will provide cover for veterans JC Janse van Rensburg and Jacobie Adriaanse.
"We have used him [Dreyer] off the bench a couple of times," the coach said, adding: "While we lose some experience with the departure of CJ [van der Linde], we do have another good tighthead in Ruan."
The Lions, currently three points clear at the top of the standings, will be determined to follow up last week's win over the Sharks (second on the standings) with victory over a dangerous Western Province outfit (in third place, four points behind the leaders).
"I have said it before, but this is the most competitive Currie Cup competition in many years ... just the fact that it is strength-versus-strength every week," Ackermann said, when asked about the tournament that has entered the business end of the season.
"Any team can knock you over if your focus is just slightly off, so we have another big challenge this coming weekend.
"We are up against a very good team and on their home ground, so we simply can't afford to ease off."
He admitted that WP, who have a very proud record at home, have a number of players in good form.
"All the teams are still playing for play-off places, so it will be an enormous challenge," the Lions coach said.
By Jan de Koning