Loss of skipper will inspire Lions: Joseph

Date published: July 29 2016

Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph expects the Lions to respond positively to the injury loss of their inspirational skipper Warren Whiteley.

The Highlanders expect the absence of Lions captain Whiteley to inspire the home side in their Super Rugby semi-final at Ellis Park.

Influential number eight Whiteley was ruled out with a calf injury sustained when the Lions beat the Crusaders in last week's quarter-final.

The captain's armband moves to flanker Jaco Kriel on Saturday with the coach's son, Ruan Ackermann, taking over at the back of the scrum.

That is the only change to the starting line-up announced on Thursday, though loose forward Steph de Witt and half-back Dillon Smit come onto the bench.

Joseph acknowledged Whiteley has been a key cog in the Lions' compelling season but noted Ackermann has also been an impressive performer, albeit mostly off the bench.

Going on personal experience, Joseph expects the hosts to respond to the loss of their leader in a positive fashion.

"In Super Rugby, there's always someone falling over 2-3 days before a game, we've experienced that ourselves," he said.

"Generally what it does is the guy who comes in gets his opportunity and makes the most."

While the Lions' loose forward play has been first-rate this season, Joseph says there are other elements to their game which makes them dangerous all-round opponents.

"They taught the Crusaders a lesson in the scrum last week, and that was a big surprise. So they've got some capable athletes in the set piece," he said.

"And they play a wide game and are very quick as well so we're going to have to be ready for all sorts of things."

The Lions are seeking a first ever final appearance in Super Rugby, having topped the combined African conference this season.