Diprose called up to relieve the pressure

Rugby Union
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The frustrations of international air travel may just have saved Tony Diprose from the most alarming experience of his brief top-flight career. The 24-year-old Saracens captain was called up by the Lions yesterday as replacement for the injured Scott Quinnell, but could not be placed on a sufficiently early flight to get him here in time to watch tonight's confrontation with Gauteng. For the sake of the new England No 8's nerves, that was probably no bad thing.

Diprose will link up with the squad in Durban tomorrow, by which time the tourists will know just how strong they are by comparison with the best of the South African provincial giants. As Gauteng, formerly known as Transvaal, can afford to employ three full Springboks as mere reserves, the Lions face an unimaginably difficult task under the floodlights at Ellis Park.

Gauteng will be captained by Kobus Wiese and spearheaded from midfield by Hennie le Roux, the two World Cup-winning heroes controversially ditched from the national squad by Carel du Plessis last week. Pieter Hendriks, Johan Roux and Chris Rossouw, three more celebrated graduates of the school of '95, also turn out along with the Argentinian Roberto Grau, who only last Saturday was giving the England front row a seeing-to in Buenos Aires. It is a murderous line-up.

"They have players with a point to prove and this game provides them with the ideal opportunity," said Tim Rodber, who captains the Lions for the second successive midweek match. "By the same yardstick, we too have points to prove. This is a selection game for the first Test and mentally we are right up for the occasion. We are prepared for a very physical match and it will be a matter of doing justice to the red shirt. There will come a time tonight when we will need to be a team."

A second straight defeat would flatten morale precisely when the tourists most need to feel good about themselves. Not only have they suffered their first reverse, lost three players to injury and one, Scott Gibbs, to suspension, but with Gauteng, Natal, the Emerging Springboks, Free State and two Tests on the agenda, there is not a single game that they can be remotely confident of winning.

Quite when Diprose, who has given up a holiday in St Lucia with his girlfriend, can expect his first run in a Lions jersey remains unclear, but the selectors believe he will fit in when the time comes. "Tony is an extremely good ball-player, a ball-winner at the back of the line-out and good in defence," Fran Cotton, the manager, said "He has the qualities required for the kind of rugby we are trying to play and to compete with the type of opponents we are facing."

If the Lions have their way, they will never again face opponents like Marius Bosman and Elandre van der Bergh. The two Mpumalanga locks who caused such mayhem in Witbank were both given wrist-slapping fines on Monday night and although Cotton was far from impressed he was of a mind yesterday to let sleeping dogs lie

"It is now for other people to decide whether the fines do justice to the events that put Doddie Weir out of the tour," Cotton said, "but just to put it in context, I don't suppose they would even match Doddie's consultancy fees, let alone the surgery he requires on his knee."

GAUTENG: D du Toit; J Gillingham, J van der Walt, H Le Roux, P Hendriks; L van Rensburg, J Roux; R Grau, C Rossouw, K van Greuning, K Wiese (capt), R Thorne, A Voss, P Krause, W Brosnihan. Replacements: J Moss, J-P du Plooy, J Dalton, B Swart, W Lessing, I Macdonald.

BRITISH ISLES: N Beal (Northampton and England); J Bentley (Newcastle and England), A Bateman (Richmond and Wales), W Greenwood (Leicester), T Underwood (Newcastle and England); M Catt (Bath and England), A Healey (Leicester and England); T Smith (Watsonians and Scotland), B Williams (Richmond and Wales), P Wallace (Saracens and Ireland), N Redman (Bath and England), J Davidson (London Irish and Ireland), R Wainwright (Watsonians and Scotland), T Rodber (Northampton and England, capt), N Back (Leicester and England). Replacements: J Guscott (Bath and England), N Jenkins (Pontypridd and Wales), M Dawson (Northampton and England), K Wood (Harlequins and Ireland), D Young (Cardiff and Wales), E Miller (Leicester and Ireland).

England Test squad, page 30