Opponents expecting improved Lions performance

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The Independent Online

There may be a new man in charge of the Golden Lions rugby team but the side that will do battle with the British and Irish Lions at Ellis Park on Wednesday night has a very familiar look about it.

The only new men in the team who weren't part of the Super 14 campaign are locks Willem Stoltz, who is back in big time rugby after a stint on the sidelines, and former Boland second row, Brad Mockford.

The two locks get a chance to show what they can do against the tourists after injuries ruled out Gerhard Mostert and Jannes Labuschagne, while Anton van Zyl has joined Western Province.

It will be the British and Irish Lions' second match of their South African tour after edging the Royal XV 37-25 in Rustenburg on Saturday.

New coach Hans Coetzee said he was excited about his first game in charge of a provincial team.

"Not in my wildest dreams would I ever have thought my first game as coach would be against the British and Irish Lions," said Coetzee on Monday. The former SA Schools coach and Lions U-19 mentor took over from Eugene Eloff last week.

"It's a big one to start with but it's in games like these where one gets measured," said Coetzee.

There are just two Boks in the Lions side - Lawrence Sephaka and Andre Pretorius - with Jaque Fourie not considered because of his involvement with the Springbok squad. Earl Rose was selected among the replacements and is expected to get some game time.

Lions captain Cobus Grobbelaar said the team had put the difficulties of last week - Eloff's sacking and the subsequent threat by the players of boycotting Wednesday night's match - well and truly behind them.

"We took a step in the right direction last week," said Grobbelaar. "In the past the players never had a voice but we raised ours last week. We never got everything we wanted. All we asked for was honesty and transparency.

"We want to turn this union and our season around; there's a good vibe at training and the players are all very motivated for the match," said Grobbelaar.

The Lions skipper said he was expecting a far tougher opponent tomorrow night than the team he saw in action in Rustenburg at the weekend.

"In rugby, you have good days and off days; they needed to get used to the conditions on Saturday, but on Wednesday I think they'll be a totally different team."

Said Coetzee: "I think they'll look to give the ball more air against us and their counter-attacking game will probably come to the fore a bit more. I think they were still feeling their way a bit on Saturday."

Golden Lions:

Louis Ludik, Michael Killian, Jannie Boshoff, Doppies la Grange, Dusty Noble; Andre Pretorius, Jano Vermaak; Willem Alberts, Franco van der Merwe, Cobus Grobbelaar (captain), Willem Stoltz, Brad Mockford, Gert Muller, Willie Wepener, Lawrence Sephaka.

Replacements: Ethienne Reynecke, JC Janse van Rensburg, Ernst Joubert, Todd Clever, Chris Jonck, Walter Venter, Earl Rose.

This story was sourced from iol.co.az.