Lions may keep their powder dry
Golden Lions coach Johan Ackermann may hold back some of his big guns when they go into battle against the Blue Bulls.
Golden Lions coach Johan Ackermann may hold back some of his big guns when they go into battle against the Blue Bulls in Johannesburg on Saturday.
The second-placed Lions, who along with the table-topping Sharks, have already booked their place in the play-offs may be the one team that will not feature too many of their returning Springboks in the final round of Currie Cup league action.
Lions coach Johan Ackermann confirmed to this website in an interview on Monday that he is considering giving some players a break this week.
"Everybody is fit and there are no major injury worries, so we have almost a full group - with the exception of lock Hendrik Roodt [dislocated the AC joint] and [scrumhalf] Michael Bondisio [calf injury]," Ackermann said.
He added that they will make a call "later in the week" on whether to rest a few players, or select their strongest possible team to tackle the Bulls.
He said the decision involves the entire squad, not just the returning Boks.
The only Lions Bok who started in the 16-32 loss to the All Blacks in Soweto at the weekend was centre Jaco Taute, although flyhalf Elton Jantjies played almost 50 minutes after coming on as a replacement for the injured Johan Goosen late in the first half.
Utility back Lionel Mapoe, along with props Pat Cilliers and CJ van der Linde did not feature in the matchday 22.
"There are a few guys whose bodies are bruised and battered after nine rounds of 80 minutes worth of rugby [every week]," Ackermann told this website.
"We are considering rotating ... either putting some players on the replacement bench or leaving some out of the matchday 22 altogether."
He said each player will be considered as an individual case. If a player needs game time, he might start ahead of a player who has been running out all season.
"Also, where we feel we do have that depth in certain positions we will consider rotation."
Ackermann said that while it is important to have momentum, they do need to give some players game time.
"I know you can never say, never, but I doubt Griquas will [be able to] do us a favour [and beat the able-topping Sharks] in Durban [to allow the Lions a chance of regaining first place].
"The question is: Do we play our strongest possible team and risk injury to a few key players, or do we rather rest a few players for the semifinal?
"The advantage [of having already booked a semifinal spot] is that we can rest players.
"Obviously we conceded first place on the standings at the weekend, which is disappointing. However, had we been in first place, we would most likely have gone all out to retain that position.
"Now the chances are good we will remain second, but it is great to know we have already booked a home semifinal.
"If we do it, it will be purely to rest players, but we do have to consider the fact that we could lose momentum."
By Jan de Koning