Former All Blacks flyhalf Carlos Spencer has been bracketed on the bench and lock Willem Stoltz returns from suspension in two of the seven changes Lions head coach Dick Muir has made to his starting line-up for the Super 14 match against the Brumbies in Canberra on Friday.
Muir has emphasised that nothing should be read into the changes other than that it is part of the rotation policy to rest some of the players. The Brumbies, Waratahs and Crusaders are their three remaining matches on their Australasian trip.
One change was forced on him as centre Deon van Rensburg had to return to South Africa because of torn ligaments in his thumb.
Four of the changes for Saturday are in the backline. Van Rensburg is replaced in midfield by Walter Venter who will partner Doppies la Grange. At fullback, Michael Killian takes over from Earl Rose who moves to the bench, and Dusty Noble gets the one wing berth in place of young Wandile Mjekevu bracketed on the bench with Carlos Spencer, who has an injury problem.
Burton Francis takes over at flyhalf from Spencer.
Up front, Springbok loosehead Heinke van der Merwe makes way for JC Janse van Rensburg, hooker Charles Emslie gets his first start and lock Willem Stoltz returns from suspension in place of Franco van de Merwe.
The two Van der Merwes and Hannes Franklin move to the bench where the fourth forward is Jacques Lombaard who is however bracketed with Robert Kruger because of an injury niggle.
“We were bitterly disappointed at the result against the Hurricanes last weekend,” Muir said on Tuesday. “We were better than that.
“I think the Hurricanes summed it up correctly when they said we were the better team that just didn’t finish it off.”
Muir felt that the team had taken a step up generally, and that the defence was also better than the previous week against the Chiefs when both sides scored nine tries in Chiefs’ 72-65 win at Coca-Cola Park.
“But our defence still let us down on a few occasions. We missed a couple of kicks at goal and we also made some silly mistakes — but the good thing is that we again created opportunities. With more experience the guys will start finishing those opportunities off.
“We want to take another step up this weekend.”
Muir said he was “quite happy where we’re at. We’re looking forward to a big one against the Brumbies, and we’re looking for that first result, you know.” — Sapa