Lions' big guns to fire against Kings
Lions coach Johan Ackermann will bring out most of his big guns for their second Super Rugby pre-season outing.
The Lions, who return to Super Rugby in 2014 after sitting out last year, head to Port Elizabeth where they will face the Southern Kings on Saturday.
A number of senior players – including Springbok lock Franco van der Merwe, Jaco Kriel, Julian Redelinghuys, Jacques van Rooyen, Marnitz Boshoff, Andries Coetzee, Michael Bondesio and newly-appointed skipper Warren Whiteley – were rested when they Lions faced a NWU-Pukke selection and the Leopards Vodacom Cup team last Friday.
Ackermann confirmed to this website that those players will be part of this week's matchday squads – which will see one team head to Polokwane to face a Blue Bulls Vodacom Cup team and another side travel to PE to meet the Kings.
"I will give a few younger players I still want to evaluate a run, but the players who were rested [last week] will be among a group of more senior players who will feature this coming weekend," the Lions mentor said.
He said there are still some guys at scrumhalf, lock, front row and at centre he would still like to see a bit more of.
"We want to thrown them in at the deep end and see what they have," he said of this week's team selections.
"There are some senior players who we know what they are capable of, but we want them to have some game time and they will travel to Polokwane to get a run."
The good news is that other than some "bumps and bruises", there are no serious injuries after last week's opening act – which saw the Lions dispatch a Leopards Vodacom Cup team 31-24, before recording a 52-14 win over the NWU Pukke team.
Ackermann admitted that certain aspects of the performances last week were not good, but it did show them which major aspects requires work.
"We also have a better idea of the form and capability of certain players," he told this website.
"From that perspective the games were of huge benefit to us."
The next two weeks – when they face the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, February 1 and the Sharks at Ellis Park a week later – the Lions will be under a bit more pressure.
"I am glad that we have these two [remaining] games, to resolve certain issues.
"However, it was a good start to be able to see certain aspects [of our game] and see what adjustments we need to make.
"The next two weeks will be a good build-up, with progressively stronger opposition."
Ackermann aid aspects such as poor ball retention, too many 50-50 passes and decision-making at the breakdown will be among the aspects receiving attention this week.
"We'll have to be a lot more clinical in that regard when we return to Super Rugby," he added.
By Jan de Koning