Players will have to fight for places : Loffie




Lions coach Eugene (Loffie) Eloff, whose side beat the Cheetahs 23-22 in a Super 14 encounter in Bloemfontein on Saturday, admitted that he now has a pleasant problem with depth ‘Yes, now the guys will have to fight for places,’ a happy Eloff said on Sunday.

In particular, he must have been thinking of his loose forwards and locks. Franco van der Merwe, who was outstanding on the flank, replacement No 8 Joe van Niekerk and captain and fetcher Cobus Grobbelaar starred in a Lions win very few saw as a probability.

RW Kember also did some yeoman work in his first Super 14 match ‘ and Eloff still has the man appointed captain for the season, Ernst Joubert, and the strong-running Willem Alberts, to call on once they have recovered from their injuries.

To add to that, Saturday’s Man of the Match Van der Merwe, who is as at home at lock as on the flank, and replacement lock Alten Hulme who shone as replacement in his 32 minutes on the field, add a new depth in this position where Cobus Grobler is also a man who has proven himself at Super 14 level.

The loss of World Cup Springbok Andre Pretorius also seemed less serious after the sterling performances by Louis Strydom, whose tactical kicking was outstanding, and his replacement Earl Rose, who got the backs moving just when it was needed in the last 20 minutes.

Another pleasant surprise was unknown former Puma tighthead Ross Geldenhuys, who more than held his own against Springbok Wian du Preez. Eloff is quite happy with the way his players had adapted to the new laws.

‘I didn’t spend too much time on that, and the guys did well. What we definitely realise, is that the game is now much faster than before.

‘It was also pleasing to see how well the guys lasted in a fast game. I believe some commentators remarked that they looked very tired when they walked off at the break,’ Eloff smiled, ‘but the way they ran in the second half surely is ample proof of their fitness.’

On what could be improved, he felt that the Lions’ finishing needs some attention. ‘We left three or four tries behind’

‘I’m very happy with the win, and I think the way the guys spread the ball and their handling were especially outstanding. Eloff says the Lions’ slow start to the match was probably because of nerves.

‘I picked that up before the game, and that makes the win extra pleasing. They will now have confidence for their next outings.

Sapa –

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