Head coach Ivan van Rooyen expressed optimism about squad rotation benefiting the Lions in their Challenge Cup clash with Ospreys in Johannesburg on Sunday.
Following a commendable performance in a narrow defeat against Montpellier last week, Van Rooyen revealed that Lions players from the alternative group would get another opportunity against the Welsh side at Ellis Park.
He emphasised the strategic squad selection, considering upcoming challenges in the Vodacom URC against the Vodacom Bulls and Sharks. Acknowledging the importance of developing talent in the Challenge Cup, he noted the chance for players to earn more playing time and showcase their abilities for future URC games.
Speaking in a Lions conference on the Highveld on Wednesday, ‘Cash’ told reporters: “In [Wednesday’s] training session, the intensity was very high and there was simply a lot of energy.
“We are also now in a position where we can rotate players. This was not the case in previous seasons.”
“We now have quite a few positions in which the difference between the front three players is very small. For the players it is probably not always nice, but it is a good position for us as a group.
“Yes, difficult decisions will have to be made later, but this is good for us.”
Highlighting the increased squad balance this season, Van Rooyen credited the continuity of retaining players from previous seasons. The ability to rotate players, a luxury not available in prior seasons, stems from this stability.
While acknowledging the difficulty of retaining players amid global competition, he stressed the Lions’ focus on developing younger talents rather than making high-priced acquisitions. The deliberate inclusion of experienced players like Corné Fourie and Etienne Oosthuizen adds influence and leadership to the team.
Reflecting on the Montpellier loss, Van Rooyen praised the team’s character and fighting spirit: “Yes, it’s not nice to lose, but if you look at the bigger picture, it’s good to be where we are at the moment.
“When you start winning, the players feel something special is happening and all this brings energy.”
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