No 8 Warren Whiteley is back for the Golden Lions but scrumhalf Nic Groom retains the captaincy for Saturday’s Currie Cup semi-final against the Sharks in Durban.
Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen called the decision logical.
“We believe Nic is captain now. Warren will assist him anyway.
“Next week we will see who is available to play and who’s not‚” said Van Rooyen perhaps intimating that Whiteley‚ who has a dual national and franchise contract‚ may be declared off limits by the national coach.
That of course only becomes a talking point should the Lions beat the Sharks.
Van Rooyen believes Whiteley brings qualities the Lions can do with in the heat of a play-off battle.
“Warren has been training well with us for two weeks‚” he said.
“As a leader and a human being he is priceless for us. He will bring calmness and leadership.”
The coach has no qualms over how Whiteley will gel in a backrow that also includes the inexperienced James Venter and Pikkie de Villiers.
“It is a traditional loose forward combination‚” he said.
“When our Boks weren’t playing they were training with us every day.”
While Whiteley and Aphiwe Dyantyi’s return comes as a huge boost for the Lions‚ Corne Fourie‚ the impactful prop cum hooker is unavailable.
When asked on Thursday why Fourie was not included Van Rooyen said he was not available.
When pressed further on the matter he said: “he’s in Japan‚ ya‚” as if the hooker developed an overnight craving for the best sushi.
Fourie has now played his last game for the Lions as he is Western Province bound at the end of the season.
In the absence of fellow hooker Malcolm Marx and lock Franco Mostert who are still rested‚ the Lions will miss Fourie’s gainline busting bursts.
He also tends to stand his ground in defence and the visitors expect the Sharks to come knocking.
Van Rooyen did not agree with replacement loose forward Hacjivah Dayimani’s assessment that the Lions need to keep the ball away from the Sharks’ forwards.
“Hacjivah’s life’s slogan is to confuse the enemy‚” he said.
“He says that every single day. We know it’s coming and we’ve prepared for that. We have a plan of our own. Rugby is still 15 men against 15 men. Otherwise it would be called touchies.”
What will help the Lions is the fact that they can assemble 23 players for the semi-finals.
In the league stages teams could only select 22 players but the extra forward should help them better absorb what the Sharks throw at them.
The Lions are also in the semi’s of the provincial u19 and u21 competitions on Friday.
The u19 team plays the Blue Bulls at Loftus at 13.00‚ while the u21s take on the Free State Cheetahs at Ellis Park at 15.00.
The Golden Lions team to play the Sharks is:
Sylvian Mahuza; Courtnall Skosan‚ Lionel Mapoe‚ Howard Mnisi‚ Aphiwe Dyantyi; Elton Jantjies‚ Nic Groom (captain); Warren Whiteley‚ Pikkie de Villiers‚ James Venter; Marvin Orie‚ Rhyno Herbst; Jacobie Adriaanse‚ Pieter Jansen‚ Sti Sithole.
Tiaan van der Merwe‚ Danie Mienie‚ Chergin Fillies‚ Vincent Tshituka‚ Hacjivah Dayimani; Dillon Smit‚ Shaun Reynolds‚ Wandisile Simelane.