De Bruin expects better Waratahs against the Lions
Despite their precarious positions in their respective conferences neither the Lions‚ nor the Waratahs‚ are prepared to acknowledge they’ll be occupying stools in the last chance saloon at Ellis Park on Saturday.
Perhaps rightly so – with six rounds remaining they can still fight their way to the top of tightly-contested conferences either side of the Indian Ocean. Both however‚ need to get a move on‚ soon.
The Lions will perhaps be more desperate. They’ve lost home matches to the Bulls and the Sharks this season and they may concede more ground to one‚ if not both those sides who are six points ahead if they don’t beat the Tahs’.
The Waratahs‚ who are third in their conference‚ are also in a closely-contested group‚ just three points off the Rebels‚ the leading Australian side.
The Waratahs‚ however‚ have a poor recent record in Johannesburg with their last victory here recorded a decade ago.
Jet lag and high altitude would no doubt have been allies to the Lions in that period and their coach‚ Swys de Bruin‚ was a little disappointed those debilitating elements will be less at play this weekend.
“It is going to benefit them‚” said De Bruin about the fact that the Waratahs have breathed Gauteng’s rarefied air for a second week. “I would have preferred to play them the first game here. Hit them with the thin air.
He acknowledged that the tourists are laden with experience and that they were more in the game than people give them credit for against the Bulls last weekend.
“They are a good team. They’ve got how many Wallabies? They are supposed to be good and beat sides. It was only that intercept try from Duane Vermeuelen that saved the Bulls. They were right in that game.”
But that’s the rub when it comes to the Waratahs. This season they’ve always been ‘in matches’ without taking full toll.
Their worst defeat this season was administered by the Sharks‚ who prevailed by eight points. The Waratahs tend to roll with the punches‚ scramble well and refuse to drop their bundle.
De Bruin expects them to be better than they were at Loftus where they got gored in the scrums by the Bulls.
“[Tom] Robertson is now over his injury‚” noted De Bruin about the prop.
“He was out for six‚ seven‚ eight months. He’s a Wallaby as well and makes a big difference at loose head.
“We have so much respect for them. We’ll have to bring our A-game otherwise it is not going to be easy.”
Robertson will start from the bench but the Waratahs have made four changes to their starting line-up for Saturday’s clash.
Two of the changes are in the backrow with Ned Hanigan back on the side of the scrum‚ while Michael Wells will wear the No 8 jersey.
Adam Ashley-Cooper’s recent heavy workload sees him drop to the bench with Lalakai Foketi slotting in at outside centre‚ while Curtis Rona makes way for Alex Newsome on the left wing.
The Waratahs have flown over fit-again hooker Tolu Latu‚ who should give them greater thrust with his energetic bursts around the fringes‚ albeit from the bench.
De Bruin is upbeat now that his squad in playing personnel and coaching ranks is almost fully restored.
“I’m excited. I saw at practice this week there is a great positive feeling.
“We’ve regrouped. We are looking forward to the last six matches‚ four at home‚ one at King’s Park and one at Loftus.”
Lions - Andries Coetzee; Courtnall Skosan‚ Lionel Mapoe‚ Harold Vorster‚ Aphiwe Dyantyi; Elton Jantjies‚ Ross Cronje; Warren Whiteley (captain)‚ Vincent Tshituka‚ Kwagga Smith‚ Marvin Orie‚ Stephan Lewies‚ Carlu Sadie‚ Malcolm Marx‚ Sti Sithole.
Substitutes: Jan-Henning Campher‚ Dylan Smith‚ Johannes Jonker‚ Wilhelm van der Sluys‚ Marnus Schoeman‚ Nic Groom‚ Shaun Reynolds‚ Tyrone Green.
Waratahs - Kurtley Beale; Cam Clarke‚ Lalakai Foketi‚ Karmichael Hunt‚ Alex Newsome; Bernard Foley‚ Nick Phipps; Michael Wells‚ Michael Hooper (captain)‚ Ned Hanigan; Rob Simmons‚ Tom Staniforth; Sekope Kepu‚ Damien Fitzpatrick‚ Harry Johnson-Holmes.
Substitutes: Tolu Latu‚ Tom Robertson‚ Chris Talakai‚ Hugh Sinclair‚ Will Miller; Jake Gordon‚ Adam Ashley-Cooper‚ Curtis Rona.
Referee: Egon Seconds
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper‚ Rasta Rasivhenge
TMO: Willie Vos