Lions coach Swys de Bruin says the presence of influential fit-again Springboks such as Warren Whiteley and Malcolm Marx has helped strengthen the ‘spine’ of the team, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Over the past fortnight, the Super Rugby stars have aligned to see the Lions finish the regular season in second place on the overall standings.
As it’s panned out, the Lions will host the Jaguares in a highly-anticipated playoff clash this Saturday, while they will also enjoy home-ground advantage should they progress to a semi-final.
Although it did appear as if the Lions were beginning to lose some momentum at the business end of the season, they have recently been boosted by the return of experienced personnel that includes Whiteley, Marx, Ross Cronjé, Courtnall Skosan and Ruan Combrinck.
‘To have players of that calibre fit and firing is obviously a big boost at an important time,’ De Bruin told SARugbymag.co.za at the start of this week. ‘A lot of our experienced players are back and really starting to play well, which is very encouraging, and it’s helped stabilise the spine of the team.’
There were certainly signs of the Lions rediscovering some timely form as they fought back to claim a convincing win over the Bulls last Saturday.
It was a result largely built around a powerful scrum and mauling performance, and De Bruin said the win had served as another timely morale boost.
‘I must say that there is a really positive mood in the camp after securing a home quarter-final, and we’re very excited about that, but we also know the Jaguares are a side of international quality.
‘Although they’ve had two hiccups recently against the Bulls and Sharks, they did rest a few players last weekend, while they had won seven games in a row before that. They’re a team that managed to beat both the Blues and Chiefs away from home earlier this season, and so we know how dangerous they can be, but we’re also looking forward to this challenge,’ he added.
The Lions will name their team to face the Jaguares on Thursday, with the clash kicking off at 3:05pm on Saturday.
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