Eloff shakes up his midfield




Lions coach Eugene Eloff has reshuffled his midfield as the team attempts to put their Super 14 campaign back on track when they face the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday.

As expected, Eloff avoided making wholesale changes, following the 41-14 blowout at the hands of the Blues last week.

However, the team shows a three crucial changes for the final game of their Australasian tour.

Andr’ Pretorius takes over the captaincy from Ernst Joubert.

Eloff said the decision to give the captaincy armband to Pretorius was simply because he was appointed team captain at the start of the season and after the injury setbacks that sidelined him in the first three weeks he is now ready to play a full 80 minutes and thus resume his captaincy responsibilities.

At fullback, the injured Earl Rose is replaced by Jaco van Schalkwyk. Rose has already returned home to South Africa with a suspected “tear” in the shoulder. The full extent of the injury will be confirmed after scans.

However the big change is at inside centre where Doppies le Grange is replaced by Jaco Pretorius, who comes into the midfield from the left-wing.

Seasoned wing Wylie Human takes over the number 11 jersey vacated by Pretorius.

Eloff said he is confident that Jaco Pretorius would be able to provide the spark that will get the backline firing again.

“He played for me at inside centre at Under-21 level,” Eloff told this website from the team’s base in Hamilton.

“Playing next to Andr’ Pretorius [the fly-half] he [Jaco Pretorius] certainly gives us more options with his pace and creativity.

“Also, if I see in the game that things are not working out then I can also move Jaque [Fourie] from outside centre to the inside and move Jaco to outside centre … where he played for us throughout the Currie Cup last year.”

The coach added that Le Grange was in desperate need of a rest, with his knee having been heavily swollen after every match, which obviously contributed to some of his lethargic performances.

Injured lock Cobus Grobler is replaced by Willem Alberts in the only change to the pack.

Despite last week’s big defeat against the Blues, the Lions still harbour serious aspirations of getting a place in the play-offs.

Having won two matches already, both in Australia, and six remaining matches to play in South Africa, victory against the Chiefs would lift the players’ spirits.

“We spoke about it [the last match of the tour] and said that we could be happy with a 50 per cent winning margin, but we are definitely aiming for 75 per cent.

“Yes, we know it’s going to be tough against a fired up Chiefs team, but it is not an unrealistic goal,” Eloff added.

Currently tied with the Western Force and Highlanders on 16 points, a win for the Lions at this juncture would give their push for the play-offs a massive boost.

The Chiefs, the Air New Zealand Cup winners in 2006, are third from bottom, yet to win a game, but have picked up five bonus points.

Lions: 15 Jaco van Schalkwyk, 14 Louis Ludik, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jaco Pretorius, 11 Wylie Human, 10 Andr’ Pretorius (c), 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Jacques Cronj’, 7 Ernst Joubert, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Anton van Zyl, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Brian Mujati, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Heinke van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Bertus Smit, 18 Gordon Gilfillan, 19 Franco van der Merwe, 20 Enrico Januarie, 21 Louis Strydom, 22 Jannie Boshoff.

Date: Friday, 16 March
Venue: Waikato Stadium, Hamilton
Kick-off: 19.35 (06.35 GMT)
Referee: James Leckie (Australia)
Touch judges: George Ayoub (Australia) Kelvin Deaker (New Zealand)
Television match official: Jonothan White (New Zealand)
Assessor: Alan Riley (New Zealand), Dennis Immelman (South Africa)


365 Digital

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