Lions get ready to hunt bears
January 11, 2013, 10:34:18
By Baylion - ex superpsort. (Note the bullet proof jerseys!)
The Russian Bears is an unknown entity in our neck of the woods, which makes it difficult to evaluate how competitive they will be in the Lions’ first match of the season. Not only has the Russians never played in South Africa or against South African opposition (as far as I know), their individual players are also unknown to the South African audiences.
Ranked #20 by the IRB the Russian Bears is definitely a third tier rugby nation, on par with natons like Portugal, Spain, Uruguay and the Ukraine while below nations like Canada (You guys are getting there canned Rugby!!), USA and Georgia. Results during 2011/12 bear this out. During the 2011 RWC they lost to Australia (22-68), Ireland (12-62), Italy (17-53) and USA (6-13). During 2012 they beat Portugal (33-32), Ukraine (38-19, Spain (41-37 and Uruguay (19-13) while losing to Romania (0-25), Georgia (0-46), Emerging Italy (17-33), Argentina A (9-33), USA (26-40) and Canada (3-35).
If one consider that the Kings beat Portugal, Georgia and Romania during the 2011 Nations Cup the Golden Lions should be considered favourites for the match even though they have lost a number of their first choice players after the 2012 season.
Injuries forced the Russians to leave some of their key players at home (Alexander Shakirov, Yevgeny Matveyev, Vladimir Botvinnik, Sergei Popov, Vladimir Boltenkov, Vladimir Ostroushko, Denis Antonov and Vladislav Korshunov) while they recalled a number of players who haven’t played for them in quite a while: Jaroslav River (2006), Sergey Novoselov and Maxim Kiselev (2007) and Sergei Yanyushkin (2009). They will also feature some rookies including Sergey Chernyshev (hooker) and Ruslan Shirinov (lock).
The Russians play their first match on Monday night against the University of Johannesburg and this match will give us an indication of their relative strength.
Apart from the Super Rugby opponents the Lions Challenge schedule has been set up so that the Lions face more competitive opponents later in the season to prepare them for the Wooden Spoon play-offs at the end of July. For the Lions the match against the Russian Bears provides an opportunity to ease into the 2013 season with a new team and new combinations before tackling more demanding opposition.
The Lions will start the season with some senior players missing – CJ van der Linde (injured), Deon van Rensburg (injured) and Warren Whiteley (Blitsbokke till mid Feb) – while scrumhalf Whestley Moolman is also out injured.
Potential Golden Lions team:
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Cmbrinck, 13 Dylan Des Fountain, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Anthony Volminck, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 , 7 Jaco Kriel, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Hendrik Roodt, 4 Franco Mostert/Hugo Kloppers, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Martin Bezuidenhout, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg
Subs: 16 Francois du Toit, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Franco Mostert/Hugo Kloppers, 19 Warwick Tecklenberg, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Marnitz Boshoff, 22 Deon Helberg
It will be interesting to find out if the Lions have managed to unearth some new talent.