JOHANNESBURG – The Lions go into their three-match Super Rugby tour of Australasia this weekend on the back of a 42-5 hiding by the Sharks last week. With plenty to do to stay in the hunt and to kick-start their tour on a positive note against the Brumbies in Canberra on Saturday, rugby writer Jacques van der Westhuyzen believes these five men now need to stand tall for the Lions:
The mercurial flyhalf has enjoyed a steady 2019 campaign without doing anything significant. He has produced some magical moments, and then been ordinary at other times, too, and it is now up to him to take charge of the team.
Of course, he can only do so much depending on what kind of ball he gets from his forwards, but even so, Jantjies needs to kick his team into good positions, he needs to be the wizard when it comes to distribution and he needs to attack the gainline and keep the opposition guessing.
The always reliable and dependable scrumhalf has had a difficult season because he only returned to action after a lengthy injury layoff after a few rounds of rugby and then he has also had to play musical chairs with Nic Groom. He has always been a smart operator, a thinking-man’s No 9, and how the Lions could do with his calm head in the coming weeks.
But that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be probing, having a run, asking questions… the Lions need their scrumhalf to spark the team, and that means Cronje has a big tour ahead of him.
The powerful flank only returned to action after seven months on the sidelines against the Sharks last week, but already there is pressure on Brink to change the dynamic of the pack and get them back onto the front foot. He is the supposed grunt up front, the man who will carry strongly over the gainline and stop the opposition’s forwards from making too many inroads, and if this is the case then the former SA Uner-20 star has a huge responsibility all of a sudden.
Brink would have shaken off the rust last week, so it is hoped he can find his form this week to guide a young and inexperienced pack on tour.
He started the competition like a man who was ready to challenge for a World Cup place but following a two-week injury layoff, Orie is yet to find that early form. It is up to Orie to be the key second-row man; to win and dominate the lineouts, to make the tackles and to lead the tight-five and help the rookies around him grow and develop.
The former Bulls man has gone quiet of late and if the Lions are to find their rhythm and power up front it will be up to him to light the cracker under his teammates’ bottoms
The Lions hooker has, like so many of his teammates, had a very up-and-down campaign so far. One thing that has been good has been his lineout throwing, but Marx hasn’t yet fired like everyone knows he can.
Perhaps it has been the burden of the leadership, or perhaps he has battled with so many rookies around him, but whatever has caused him to go quiet, the Lions captain needs to find the form that saw him become one of the world’s most respected and feared players. Marx, more than anyone, needs a massive three weeks.