Lions aim to give Van der Merwe happy send off

 The Johannesburg based Lions are hoping that they will be able to give stalwart lock Franco van der Merwe a memorable send-off in their final match of the Super Rugby season against the Cheetahs on Saturday.

Van der Merwe will run out in his 99th Super Rugby match for the Johannesburg franchise before joining Irish club Ulster.

In Van der Merwe the Lions will be losing their most experienced player and a crucial member of their brain trust.

“Franco will be missed – most of us will miss him for what he’s done on the field. He always put in a 100 percent,” Ackermann said of the Springbok lock.

“Even more off the field – the character that he is, he is a leader first of all then he is a fun guy to be with.

“He represents the players on all levels … it is a loss for us but we understand why he is leaving.”

Ackermann made three changes to the side which claimed a 34-17 victory over the Rebels last weekend.

Flyhalf Elton Jantjies has been rewarded for a good performance, playing off the bench in Friday’s match, and will be playing his 50th Super Rugby match.

He replaces recently capped Springbok pivot Marnitz Boshoff and will reach his half-ton along with utility back Lionel Mapoe, who replaces the injured Deon van Rensburg on the wing.

In another change to the run-on side, Andries Coetzee makes his return after recovering from an injury.

He will slot in at fullback to the cost of Coenie van Wyk, who moves out of the matchday XV.

It may be the final match of the Super Rugby season for both sides but it is by no means a dead rubber.

While the Lions have already surpassed their best winning record in the competition – when they beat the Rebels last weekend for their sixth win of the season – the two sides will be fighting to avoid the wooden spoon in the South African conference.

Only two points separate the two sides with the Lions lying in 13th place on the overall log, and the Cheetahs 14th.

Lions captain Warren Whiteley said the team were determined to extend their winning record to seven matches for the season.

“I know how good this group is and I am aiming for seven wins,” said Whiteley.

“I feel it is justifiable if you look at the ability of the group and that is what we are going for this weekend – seven victories.”

Victory will not be presented on a silver platter as they face a resurgent Cheetahs team, fresh off a 27-20 victory over the Sharks last weekend.

The Bloemfontein-based franchise will also be looking to complete the rare accomplishment of victories over all the South African sides this season.

The Cheetahs have beaten the Bulls, Stormers and the Sharks during the season, with only a Lions defeat still outstanding.

They will also be looking to make amends for the one-point loss they suffered at the hands of the Lions in the opening round of the competition in Bloemfontein.


Andries Coetzee, Lionel Mapoe, Stokkies Hanekom, Alwyn Hollenbach, Anthony Volmink, Elton Jantjies, Ross Cronje, Warren Whiteley (captain), Warwick Tecklenburg, Jaco Kriel, Franco van der Merwe, Franco Mostert, Julian Redelinghuys, Robbie Coetzee, Schalk van der Merwe.

Replacements: Armand van der Merwe, Corné Fourie, Ruan Dreyer, Willie Britz, Derick Minnie, Faf de Klerk, Marnitz Boshoff, Courtnall Skosan.

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