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Lions tripped up over Hines

Nathan Hines has established a reputation as the most combustible Lions forward on this tour of South Africa: the northern hemisphere's answer to the Springbok enforcer Bakkies Botha, even though the Scotland lock was actually born in the southern hemisphere, down Wagga Wagga way.

As of yesterday, he is also the least useful forward.

Hines was suspended for a week after being found guilty of dangerous tackling during the drawn game with the Emerging Springboks on Tuesday night and will miss the must-win second Test in Pretoria.

Ian McGeechan, the head coach, had given no hint of whether he was considering promoting Hines to the elite side for Saturday's match at Loftus Versfeld, but events here yesterday rendered the topic irrelevant.

Unless the Lions successfully appeal against the verdict, delivered by the judicial officer Alan Hudson after a hearing at the offices of the Western Province union yesterday lunchtime, the naturalised Australian will not be available until the third and final Test in Johannesburg in nine days.

He was reported by Stephen Hinds, the citing officer from New Zealand, who spotted him tipping up the Emerging Springboks second-row forward Wilhelm Steenkamp in the early exchanges of the contest at Newlands and letting him fall to the floor.

It was hardly the worst transgression in the history of Lions touring and certainly did not qualify as a so-called “spear tackle”, in which a victim is turned in the air and driven into the floor.

However, the authorities have for some time been very hot on anything involving a player hitting the ground from a position “above the perpendicular”.

Hines was represented by the Lions' travelling barrister, Richard Smith QC, with McGeechan and Gerald Davies, the manager, also present. Twelve years ago in this country, the tourists also lost a player to a one-week ban: Scott Gibbs, the Wales centre, who was suspended for punching during the defeat by Northern Transvaal. Gibbs went on to play a crucial role in the Test series, but with only one match now available to Hines, history is most unlikely to repeat itself.

Before McGeechan and his colleagues met yesterday to select their side for the Pretoria Test, the scrum coach Graham Rowntree repeated his view that there might be changes in all three rows of the scrum.

For his part, the defence coach Shaun Edwards mentioned both Luke Fitzgerald and Shane Williams as possible candidates for the left wing position currently held by Ugo Monye, who missed two clear-cut scoring opportunities in Durban five days ago.

After acknowledging that Monye's failures on the finishing front had been damaging.

“No one is more disappointed than Ugo,” he said .

Edwards revealed that the Lions, who have now spent almost three weeks at sea level, are training with altitude masks in preparation for their imminent return to altitude.

“I think the players will be in much better shape to deal with the conditions up there than when they first arrived in South Africa and played in Rustenburg,” Edwards said.

“At this moment, I think Loftus Versfeld is probably the hardest place in the world to play rugby. Anyone watching the Bulls win the Super 14 final there would probably agree.

“But I'll be gutted if the last week of this trip is not full of excitement and tension, so that means winning this Test and setting up a decider in Johannesburg.”

Belfast Telegraph


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