In a timely boost for the team who have lost both their opening games against the Cheetahs and the Sharks, Van der Merwe’s omission from the Bok squad could very well serve as a blessing in disguise for coach Johan Ackermann’s charges.
Van der Merwe has been part of the wider Bok squad since last season but has yet failed to break into the side with preference being given to Eben Etzebeth, Juandre Kruger and Flip van der Merwe. The two young locks Chris van Zyl and Gavin Annadale did well in the 33-25 loss to the Sharks in Durban last weekend, but Van der Merwe’s experience will be vital.
The Lions can ill-afford a third straight loss as they are at the moment the only team in the premier league still without a win.
And stuck at just one point at the bottom of the table, already five points adrift of the top teams after just two games, has left the Lions in a desperate situation before the Loftus encounter.
But even more worrying for Ackermann was the struggle in the scrums where the situation only improved once CJ van der Linde had replaced the struggling Jacques van Rooyen at loosehead.
Ackermann spoke before the Cheetahs clash already about being slightly short in depth at prop, which could see both hooker Willie Wepener and prop Bees Roux return to their former hunting ground.
Defence is also starting to become a problem with the Lions conceding the most tries (seven) after two matches in the competition, while they scored the joint most (six) with the Sharks and the Cheetahs.