In a World Cup year, South Africa needs all its Super Rugby teams to be on fire, Lions coach Swys de Bruin believes.
With the Lions losing a few stars, the gap between them and the rest of the SA sides could be significantly narrowed.
“I’m very realistic and know what our situation is, but you can’t have one team in the final and the rest about eighth, ninth or 10th. We need at least three of our four teams to be right up there,” De Bruin said.
He predicted the Bulls, who had lured Boks like Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Brits and Cornal Hendricks, could be a real threat.
“If you look at the Bulls and what they have brought in there, it’s massive,” De Bruin said.
“The coaching staff, the director of rugby [Alan Zondagh], who is very experienced, and with Duane Vermeulen, they have a very strong spine. The No 2 aerial lock, and 9, 10, 15 are all Boks, so they are looking very good.
“The Sharks have also got a lot of momentum from winning the Currie Cup and the Stormers have about 11 Boks in their forward pack. A guy like (Sikhumbuzo) Notshe is a Bok but he comes off the bench.
“We know what the fight will be, and we’ll have to be a team. It’s going to be a hard fight.”
The Lions are set to play their first warm-up game against the Bulls at Loftus this weekend, but with rolling subs expected to be used, De Bruin planned to rest most of this first-choice team.
“For the first game we are going to rest most of the established guys,” he said.
“We’re resting the [Japanese club] guys like Harold Vorster and Kwagga Smith and the guys who still have niggles.
“Against the Sharks [in a later warm-up fixture], in one of the two halves we will field the starting team for the first Jaguares game [in the Super Rugby campaign].”