CRAIG LEWIS looks at the impact made by Warren Whiteley, Cyle Brink and Kwagga Smith in the Lions’ impressive win over the Chiefs last Friday.
This season, the Lions’ back row has been decimated by injury, which has forced regular lock Stephan Lewies to even fulfil a caretaker role in the loose trio at times.
However, Whiteley, Brink and Smith all made a timely return ahead of the clash against the Chiefs in round 10, and the result was immediately telling as the Lions powered their way to a 23-17 win.
As Sanzaar’s statistics indicate, the trio all made massive contributions, with Smith completing six carries, 31m and 10 tackles. Brink was also particularly influential, making as many as 13 carries, 22m and 12 tackles. He also won three lineouts and a turnover for good measure.
In addition, Whiteley’s presence appeared to galvanise the side, with his typically high work rate seeing him make 27m, eight carries, eight tackles, while he created a stunning try through a deft grubber.
Understandably, stand-in coach Ivan van Rooyen hailed the influence of the three key players.
‘I think it’s the first game we’ve played this year with all three together,’ he commented. ‘The word is consistent, so now Kwagga gets a little bit more game, Cyle just came back from a knee [injury] and it was Warren’s first game back.’
There is no doubt that the Lions will need some of their leading players to once again rise to the occasion if they are to have any hope of upsetting the Crusaders in Christchurch on Friday.
The Saders are coming off the back of a bye, and while Scott Barrett, Matt Todd and Owen Franks will not be available for this weekend’s clash, hooker Codie Taylor and wing George Bridge have returned to full fitness.
The clash will kick off at 9:35am on Friday.