Lions coach says beating the Highlanders would change mood in camp
Lions coach Swys de Bruin insists a win over the Highlanders this weekend will make their four-match sojourn in the Antipodes well worth it.
The Lions won their opening game against the Waratahs‚ but have since copped defeats against the Reds and the Hurricanes.
Saturday’s clash however‚ has the potential to change the mood in the camp‚ while restoring wider confidence in their campaign.
“A win against the Highlanders will make it a very successful tour‚” said De Bruin from Dunedin.
“The guys showed plenty guts against the Hurricanes. It (a win) will mean a lot. We haven’t won there at the new stadium and it will be a massive challenge.”
The sole win the Lions achieved in Dunedin was in 2011 in the Highlanders last season at their former home ground Carisbrook.
De Bruin will seek improved performance from his charges‚ but they’ll have to achieve it without their most impactful player Malcolm Marx.
The Bok hooker returned home after suffering a hamstring injury and his replacement in last week’s defeat against the Hurricanes‚ Robbie Coetzee was blown off course.
“I don’t want to look for excuses but that wind was again incredible‚” De Bruin said about Coetzee’s failure to regularly find his jumpers.
Wellington has a devilish wind that sweeps in off the Cook Strait and when it reaches a stadium that earned the moniker ‘Cake Tin’‚ the prospect of throwing in can cause you to want to throw up.
“You could see it with the kicks as well as the handling‚” De Bruin reminded.
“The line-outs weren’t easy for Robbie and he hasn’t had a lot of game time. He has worked very hard on his line-out feeds this week so I’m encouraged.”
With Marx having flown home the Lions opted not to fly out a replacement. It means Coetzee is the only established hooker in the group.
“Marnus Schoeman can also come on as hooker‚” said De Bruin of the flank.
“Jacques van Rooyen can also deputise well at hooker if he is required to‚” he said of the prop.
“In the past we’ve had him ready to play in that position‚ not that it was required. We are prepared at hooker.
"We did consider flying in Corne (Fourie) but they just had their first born and were blessed with something new in their house and I don’t think it would have been the right thing to bring him across.”
Deploying the dynamic Schoeman at hooker‚ however‚ will serve to undermine his full impact.
The blond openside has been one of the revelations of the Lions’ season and moving him to the confines of the front row will limit his efficacy.
He has delivered some eye-catching performances on this tour.
“He is someone we are interested in‚” said De Bruin of Schoeman.
“He is a team man. He makes a lot of tackles. He’s good off the bench and he is good from the start.
"If you play him with Kwagga (Smith) you lose a bit in the line-out so sometimes it is easier to bring him or Kwagga off the bench to lift the intensity.
"He has slotted in well with us.”