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Lions eager to keep Springboks on back foot

David Hands, Rugby Correspondent, Port Elizabeth Times Online 15.06.2009 14:23
Lions eager to keep Springboks on back foot - James Hook - Rugby

James Hook given another chance to stake claim as side is named for final warm-up match before first international

Now the guessing games begin. Ian McGeechan has spent all tour trying to draw a veil over his true intentions for the series with South Africa and, in the week of the first international, his starting XV for today's game against the Southern Kings is designed to keep the Springboks in the dark.

The hosts will declare their hand today after Heinrich Brüssow, the Cheetahs flanker, who was nearly the Lions' nemesis in the third tour game, was added to their squad.

Any coach worth his salt will claim he knows which way the opposition will go in selection - the Lions, for example, believe that Jean de Villiers and Adi Jacobs will be the centre pairing for South Africa despite the injuries that have limited their rugby this season - but second-guessing McGeechan while he has chopped and changed has been like seeking a trail in a labyrinth.

That Andrew Sheridan plays at the new Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium here this afternoon suggests that Gethin Jenkins will start the first international at loose-head prop, that Simon Shaw will not partner Paul O'Connell at lock and that Ugo Monye will play on the left wing ahead of Shane Williams. The Welshman was suffering from a stomach upset yesterday and Tommy Bowe was added to the travelling party. It is equally easy to envisage at least five of today's side being involved in Saturday's squad.


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