Rainbow Cup

Pieter-Steph absence a 'boost', but lowly Lions have bigger things to focus on

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Pieter-Steph du Toit has had some fun against the Lions previously. (Gallo Images)
Pieter-Steph du Toit has had some fun against the Lions previously. (Gallo Images)
  • The Lions admit the absence of Pieter-Steph du Toit is a "big loss" for the Stormers, but they can't be too focused on that boost.
  • Instead, their lowly position on the log from two opening defeats mean they first have to get their own house in order on the field.
  • The return of the grizzled Willem Alberts is a major boost for a young team lacking direction at times.

Given their subterranean spot on the Rainbow Cup SA log, the Lions won't take much comfort from being "spared" having to front up to Pieter-Steph du Toit when they take on the Stormers at Ellis Park on Saturday.

The current World Player of the Year, who only recently returned from a career-threatening leg injury, has been rested in line with Springbok workload protocols for the weekend's action.

Not that the Lions are preoccupied with that thought as two lacklustre performances have heaped pressure on the team.

Lions explain teenager Jordan Hendrikse's selection at 10:

"Fred (Zeilinga) is struggling with a groin that is a bit of a niggle. That is not the reason we went with Jordan.

"Jordan brings something else for us. He's a nice‚ young‚ big‚ physical 10. He brings a massive right boot. He will bring excitement. He will probably take the ball to the line a little bit."

"Obviously, if a starting Springbok isn't playing it's significant. If he's playing, it's significant," said Ivan van Rooyen, the Lions' head coach.

"A player of Pieter-Steph's calibre will always make a difference. But that's how things go. We have injuries, our opponents have injuries and absences. 

"So, of course, his absence is noteworthy, a big loss though we've got too much to focus on ourselves."

Looking inward is indeed a prudent strategy for the Lions who, despite scoring four tries in Durban last weekend, have been hamstrung by elementary errors and questionable decision-making.

"We spoke about it extensively‚" said Van Rooyen.

"We did enough to beat the Sharks last week but our errors proved expensive. The guys understand the things they are doing wrong and how expensive it is. It's an opportunity for us to change that this week."

It's a sentiment also held by this week's captain, centre Burger Odendaal.

"Both teams lost narrowly last weekend and both will be desperate to get a win. We spoke in the week about fighting for 80 minutes because you are not going to get a win easily."

Assisting their cause is the return of the experienced Willem Alberts from a calf injury.

The 36-year-old veteran has become a talisman in the pack since starring in last season's Currie Cup and his grunt has been sorely missed up front.

However, he won't be pressed straight into service like the Bulls did with Duane Vermeulen last week despite a "temptation" to do so.

"It's good to have him back‚" said Van Rooyen.

"It's a matter of him now regaining full fitness. We know he is going to bring physicality in the second part of the game, as well as leadership and calmness.

"With the younger guys around him on the bench we are excited he will make a difference."

Kick-off is at 13:30.

Teams:

Lions

15 EW Viljoen, 14 Rabz Maxwane, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Burger Odendaal (captain), 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Jordan Hendrikse, 9 Andre Warner, 8 Francke Horn, 7 Vince Tshituka, 6 MJ Pelser, 5 Reinhard Nothnagel, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Sti Sithole

Substitutes: 16 PJ Botha, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 19 Willem Alberts, 20 Emmanuel Tshituka, 21 Morne van den Berg, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 Dan Kriel

Stormers

15 Damian Willemse, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Dan du Plessis, 12 Rikus Pretorius, 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Abner van Reenen, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Willie Engelbrecht, 6 Marcel Theunissen, 5 David Meihuizen, 4 Ernst van Rhyn, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff (captain)

Substitutes: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Ben-Jason Dixon, 20 Johan du Toit, 21 Juarno Augustus, 22 Paul de Wet, 23 Tim Swiel

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