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New approach to squads key says Lions coach

SPOTLIGHT: Lions forwards coach Julian Redelinghuys predicts that South African teams will approach their second season in the European Cup differently as far as rotation of players in the different campaigns are concerned.

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South African teams struggled in the playoff rounds last year and could not make inroads against strong European competition.

This season the Lions are joined by the Sharks and Cheetahs in the Challenge Cup while the Bulls and Stormers both qualified for the Championship Cup.

When the Lions announced their traveling squad to face Perpignan on Sunday, it was clear they saw the need to split their squad and give some players, who have not featured in the United Rugby Championship this season, some game time.

Redelinghuys explained the thinking behind their need for greater and more versatile squad selection.

“I think it is really interesting how we have to go about it. If you look at our travel schedule, I don’t think everyone is aware how we have to travel this week. We only arrive there on Thursday afternoon late, then we still have a long bus ride,” the former prop explained.

“We only fly back on Monday evening and arrive here late on Tuesday afternoon.

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“For you to be able to travel with one squad, or say the same 23, play a game, travel, only arrive on Tuesday, then to perform again on a Saturday is really tough.

“I think that’s why we see all the teams looking to manage their squad and it also helps with building squad depth and rewarding the guys that have been working really hard while the other guys were playing.

“I think that is what we will see from South African teams going forward,” he predicts.

He talked about their Super Rugby days that required month-long tours which put them at a disadvantage to their Trans-Tasman rivals – New Zealand and Australia.

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“What we were used to in Super Rugby is we were traveling mostly through Sydney or it was mostly straight flights.  We all had business class, only the few junior guys had economy seats or premium economy whereas now we have connection flights either through Katar or Dubai most of the time.

“But we are not in the game of complaining, those are the cards we are dealt at the moment, and we take it on the chin.

“The important thing is for us to recover really well after traveling and that is where I think we made a massive step-up.

“Our traveling time now is going to be 23 hours, so it’s a long trip but then to make sure you recover well in order to perform on the weekend,” Redelinghuys said.

The Lions face the Newcastle Falcons at home at Ellis Park on December 16 and will therefor keep some coaches behind to prepare the rest of the squad for that encounter.

“How our weeks work is Mondays and Tuesdays are mostly attack focused with a plan for the coming weekend and installing our line-outs that we are taking into the next game.

“So coach Barend [Pieterse] and coach Ricardo [Laubscher] will be staying to prep the guys that are staying behind for the Newcastle game.

“Then head coach Cash van Rooyen, myself and coach Jaque [Fourie] are flying to Perpignan with the team.

“It works in our favour that we can prep both teams for both games,” he explained.

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