/ 3 August 2011

Spencer confident in new Lions’ halfbacks

Lions backline coach Carlos Spencer said on Wednesday he had confidence in the team’s new halfback pairing who were set to face the Blue Bulls in a Currie Cup clash in Pretoria on Saturday.

With Michael Bondesio replacing regular scrumhalf Jano Vermaak, who was out of favour after signing with the Bulls this week, and Burton Francis demoted to the bench, after Elton Jantjies had been released by the Springboks, the Lions were preparing to enter unchartered territory.

“He looks in really good shape,” Spencer said of Jantjies’ physical conditioning.

“The excitement he has brought to us as a group has been great.

“He has obviously not been playing any rugby for the last six weeks, so he is probably going to lack a bit of match fitness, but his enthusiasm and excitement has been tremendous this week so we are really looking forward to having him back and seeing him play at the weekend.”

As for Bondesio, who was one of the most impressive players during last year’s domestic competition, when he played for the Leopards, Spencer said he had been working hard since joining the Lions and there were no doubts about his abilities.

“He [Bondesio] loves to attack and that is what you need from a number nine,” said Spencer.

“He has a good voice, he is dominant in his calling and he’s a good organiser.

“He has bided his time and now has his opportunity so he’s got to grab it with both hands and give it a good go.”

Apart from the new halfback combination, the Lions also welcomed back wing Lionel Mapoe, who missed last week’s match because of a knee injury, in the team named on Wednesday.

There were fewer changes to the side’s forwards, with loosehead prop JC Janse van Rensburg the only new addition.

Janse van Rensburg replaced Patric Cilliers who dropped to the bench.

Lions forwards coach Johan Ackermann said the inclusion of Van Rensburg was important as they would be up against a Bulls pack loaded with men who had played at Test level.

“JC is ready to start and he had the necessary rest after playing a lot of Super Rugby,” said Ackermann.

The Bulls would have an all Springbok front row in Werner Kruger, Chiliboy Ralepelle and Dean Greyling at their disposal.

“It [facing such an intimidating front row] is a good challenge,” Ackermann insisted.

“They will now be seen as a Bok front row and it is a good opportunity for our guys to measure themselves against the new resistance that we are going to get.”

Lions team: Michael Killian, Deon van Rensburg, Waylon Murray, Alwyn Hollenbach, Lionel Mapoe, Elton Jantjies, Michael Bondesio, Joshua Strauss (captain), Derick Minnie, Cobus Grobbelaar, Franco van der Merwe, Wikus van Heerden, Jacobie Adriaanse, Bandise Maku, JC Janse van Rensburg. Replacements: Martin Bezuidenhout, Patric Cilliers, Michael Rhodes, Warren Whiteley, Rudy Paige, Burton Francis, Jaco Taute. — Sapa