Lions vs Sharks: Jordan Hendrikse back at No 10 for crucial URC derby?

Lions head coach Ivan Van Rooyen

FILE - Lions head coach Ivan Van Rooyen. Photo: Marty Melville/AFP

Published Feb 26, 2024


Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen might have to find a quiet spot this week among the hustle and bustle of Johannesburg, as he ponders his matchday 23 for what has now become a crucial, non-negotiable clash against the Sharks this coming weekend.

Four loses in a row in all competitions – two damaging ones to the Bulls in succession – have left the Joburgers stuck in the bottom half of the United Rugby Championship (URC) standings, a position they will be desperate to extract themselves out of with a victory over the embattled Sharks on Saturday at Ellis Park (kick-off 3pm).

One of those questions to consider, along with assistant coach Ricardo Loubscher, will be whether the selection of Sanele Nohamba at 10 has run its course – for now – and if it is time to give Jordan Hendrikse a starting berth in the channel. There are no doubts that Nohamba has been a baller at pivot for the Lions this season, but a change there could just refresh the whole squad.

In the recent loss against the Bulls, when Nohamba slotted in at scrumhalf, servicing the 22-year-old flyhalf for a 22-minute burst, it brought a bit of attacking impetus which had hereto been lacking in that encounter.

Could a change of halfback pairing, which has a number of refreshing combinations, be the solution as the Lions seek to overturn their recent run of losses?

It is something that at least seems to be giving Loubscher some food for thought, especially with the depth developed over the last few seasons.

“As the attack and backline coach, that is a part of my problem, to look for answers and come up with solutions,” he said, when considering such a change last week at a training session held at Hoërskool Florida.

“If you look at Jordan in training, and every time he comes on, we can see the difference. It is maybe something for us to consider.

“We have talent outside – you look at Henco (van Wyk), you look at Richard (Kriel), you look at Edwill (van der Merwe) – they don’t get enough ball in their hands, and that will be the plan for us going forward: get the ball to them and give those guys opportunities on the edges just to create havoc a bit.

“If they perform,” he continued, referring to the outside backs, “it is so much easier.

“I think now we have enough depth (to make changes to the starting XV). If you look at the guys that played against Montpellier, they put up their hands. As coaches, we need to sit down and look for the best combinations going into the Sharks game.”

The current start-stop nature of the URC will also make the tough selection decisions anxious ones, and Loubscher admitted it would require careful contemplation with both teams’ desperation measurable.

Said the former Springbok assistant coach: “The Sharks will be desperate but so will we after our performance against the Bulls.

“There was a lot of frustration and disappointment when coming away from that Bulls disappointment (the Lions lost 25-10). The big thing is to just take our opportunities. We had chances in that game …

“Our big focus will be just in the moment, composure and when the opportunities (are) there we need to take them.

“Our planning needs to be spot-on,” he added, regarding the undulating schedule. “We have done a lot of research in terms of the Bull game, analysis and soul searching to focus on our strengths and really try and improve there … hopefully, the next game is the ideal opportunity for us.”

Earlier this season the Lions beat the Sharks 20-18, and such a result will be more than welcome as they seek to set their campaign right again.


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