His hand forced by what he calls the worst spate of injuries he has had to deal with in 16 years of coaching, MTN Lions coach John Mitchell will field only seven of the players who started in the Currie Cup final for the Vodacom Super Rugby match against the Stormers at Coca-Cola Park on Saturday. Kick-off is at 7.10pm.
Of those seven players, fullback Jaco Taute will start at outside centre in the absence of Alwyn Hollenbach who is injured. Doppies la Grange moves to the inside berth. Another notable selection is that of Pat Cilliers, who is back as tighthead after injury. His inclusion sees Jacobie Adriaanse move to the bench – and also doubles the tight forwards in last year’s Currie Cup final to two with Franco van der Merwe the other! On the wing Andries Coetzee, who performed well as flyhalf last weekend when he came on as a replacement for his debut at this level, plays in place of Michael Killian who is on the bench and is being slowly fased in after a troublesome hamstring.
Scrumhalf Michael Bondesio has also not made the fitness cut and Tian Meyer will start in his place, with former Sharks scrumhalf Ross Cronje coming in on the bench. Butch James again starts at flyhalf.
Despite the number of changes against a resurgent and dangerous Stormers outfit, Mitchell earlier this week said that injuries are no excuse – and the Sharks will testify to that after the Lions just fell short in a remarkable display of guts last weekend. That guts will no doubt be there again.
The team is:
15 James Kamana, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Doppies la Grange, 11 Andries Coetzee, 10 Butch James, Tian Meyer, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Joshua Strauss (capt.), 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Franco van der Merwe, Marius Coetzer, 3 Patric Cilliers, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Caylib Oosthuizen. Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Jacobie Adriaanse, 18 Stephan Greeff, 19 Cobus Grobbelaar, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Michael Killian, 22 Ruan Combrinck