Lions may spring a surprise on Sharks

2008-09-24 00:00

BOTH the Sharks and Lions should be just about at full-strength for Saturday’s Absa Currie Cup match at Ellis Park, in what is shaping up to be a mini-final for both sides, with so much riding on the outcome.

While the Sharks welcome back a number of players, the Lions could spring a surprise of their own.

Their 32-year old lock, Jannes Labuschagne, who quit two years ago, has come out of retirement. Despite initial expectations that he would only play a role in next year’s Super 14 and beyond, it appears the former Bok, who played in 11 Tests, may well be thrust into the match-day 22.

In other possible changes, Jaco Pretorius is a doubtful starter following a hand injury he picked up against Boland and his position at centre could be taken by Jaque Fourie, who was only expected to play a limited role off the bench.

Eugene Eloff, the Lions coach, has admitted that his players are only too aware of “the importance of this week … and that’s where all our energy and focus will be”.

For the Sharks, it is likely that Bok captain John Smit will get a brief run off the bench following a lengthy lay-off with a groin strain.

With the Sharks well on track to go all the way, Smit’s leadership is expected to add huge value to an already powerful team.

The Lions are only too aware that with two tough games to finish off the round-robin, their semi-final position is not yet sealed.

“We have worked hard to get to where we are,” Eloff said, “and we can’t and won’t give it away.”

Speaking to rugby365.co.za, he said: “We know that the Sharks will be determined to secure a home final, they will be on a mission, but our players are motivated, the mindset is right and we will take the game to them, focusing on executing our game plan accurately.”

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