JOHANNESBURG – The Lion has entered the Super Rugby business ending and has everything to do in their remaining five regular season games if they have to qualify for the playoffs.
Here, rugby writer Jacques van der Westhuyzen highlights the most important men who will play a major role in the coming weeks …
Is it a case or Warren Whiteley's presence that the lions won both their latest matches, since No. 8 was on the run and the responsibility?
Whiteley returned to action after seven weeks due to injury to lead the team to a victory over the Chiefs in Hamilton a couple of weeks ago, at a time when Lions experienced a few problems in the coaching line.
No. 8 did not play against the Crusaders and the Lion lost, but last weekend Whiteley was back on track, and the team scattered the Warata army with a point.
He will be an important man in the coming weeks as a player and team leader.
The lions have probably missed the tough graft of the now runaway Franco Mostert, but Orie has stepped up big-time this season and taken charge of the second row.
He has been the first choice elector on lineout time, and he has also been a strong defender at close quarters.
In fact, Orie is third on the lineout roster list and is also his team's best defender.
He is a man of great experience and a bit shallow as well, and will be a significant contributor in the coming weeks.
When Orie has been out of the mix due to injury – which fortunately has not been often – the Lion has not been the same team.
Damage to several Lions loose forwarders has prevented the team from having any kind of continuity this season, and Smith has also used his reasonable share of time on the sidelines.
He has also had to play musical chairs between No. 8 and the fetish flank who have not helped him but he has maintained a consistently high performance standard, which has helped the lions to head for a playoff this year, even though only just.
His adaptability has been a big plus, so the lions will hope he will stay fit from there.
His speed, work speed and X factor will make him a key player in the coming weeks.
– Super Rugby (@SuperRugby)
May 11, 2019
Statistically, Lions is South Africa's best and most effective scrumming device that has won 92% of their scrum feeds.
It is a good bet given that they launched this year's campaign without their two major weapons from recent times, Ruan Dreyer and Jacques van Rooyen, who now play abroad.
Dylan Smith has also spent a great deal of time on the damaged list. Step up Sadie, the 22-year-old Cape Borrower, and Sti Sithole, the ransom.
They came in their own in 2019, with Sadie especially good. He is a block of a man and has done brilliantly to anchor the Lions scrum. He must also keep fit.
The Lions coaching team has been cutting and changing since so regularly this season that Jantjies is the only backline player who has started each match so far, showing which vital element he is in the Lions team.
– Emirates Lions (@LionsRugbyCo)
May 11, 2019
Calm and measured, Jantjies has had a good campaign without being flashy, and his experience and strong kicking games will be crucial in the coming weeks.
Why did he not assume the team's leadership when Whiteley went down, is something only the coach, Swys de Bruin, can answer.
Jantjies performing at her best will go a long way to helping her team finish in the top eight to a place in knockout rounds.
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