A third of his team are still eligible for the Under-21 ranks but coach Swys de Bruin is confident they will deliver the goods when the Golden Lions host Western Province at Ellis Park in a Currie Cup match on Sunday (2.30pm kick-off).
Replacements for the match Jan-Louis la Grange, Bradley Thain, Hacjivah Dayimani and Rhyno Herbst and starters Marco Jansen van Vuuren, Jo Hanko de Villiers and Len Massyn are all under-21 players in the team to tackle the men from the Cape.
On top of that, Pieter Jansen, Marvin Orie, Kwagga Smith, Ashlon Davids, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Harold Vorster, Sylvian Mahuza and Jaco van der Walt are all under 25.
“I don’t see it as a gamble,” said De Bruin on Friday when he named his team for the match.
The fourth-placed Lions just about have to win tomorrow, and next week in their final regular season game against the Free State Cheetahs, to qualify for the semi-finals.
“I think it’s fantastic to be able to play these youngsters,” added De Bruin.
“Initially, at the start of the competition (when several players were ruled out because of Springbok duty and club commitments in Japan) I was very down, but I now realise I have an opportunity to see what these guys can do at a reasonably high level of rugby.
“It’s hard to judge players in a pre-season, so they now have a chance to go out there and show what they can do.
“Many of these players are the future of our union and I’m excited for them to get this chance against a good Western Province team.”
While De Bruin still wants his team to do well in the Currie Cup, with a spot in the play-offs still the main aim, he is also thinking ahead to Super Rugby next year.
“It’s more important for me to prepare for Super Rugby, especially with some senior players maybe being 50/50 picks next year, like Warren Whiteley, Jaco Kriel and Ruan Combrinck being injured and an end-of-year (Springbok) tour still coming up.
“If you consider all of these things then there is method to my madness of playing the likes of Jo Hanko, Len, Aphiwe, and so on... it puts their selections in perspective.”
De Bruin said his message to the players this week has been a simple one.
“Obviously we want to win and play good rugby, but I also want the players to have fun, to enjoy their time out on the field and stake a claim for a place in my Super Rugby selection.”
Golden Lions: Jaco van der Walt, Sylvian Mahuza, Harold Vorster, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Ashlon Davids, Marco Jansen van Vuuren, Kwagga Smith, Jo Hanko de Villiers, Len Massyn, Marvin Orie, Andries Ferreira, Jacobie Adriaanse, Pieter Jansen, Jacques can Rooyen (capt)
Replacements: Robbie Coetzee, Dylan Smith, Johannes Jonker, Rhyno Herbst, Hacjivah Dayimani, Bradley Thain, Jan-Louis la Grange
Western Province: Damian Willemse, Seabelo Senatla, EW Viljoen, Huw Jones, Ruhan Nel, Robert du Preez, Dewaldt Duvenage, Nizaam Carr, Cobus Wiese, Kobus van Dyk, JD Schickerling, Chris van Zyl (capt), Frans van Wyk, Bongi Mbonambi, JC Janse van Rensburg
Replacements: Ramone Samuels,Caylib Oosthuizen, Jan de Klerk, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Justin Phillips, Werner Kok, Craig Barry
Independent on Sunday