JOHANNESBURG - New Lions head coach Swys de Bruin has promised fans the team will continue to play an exciting brand of rugby under his stewardship.
De Bruin took over the reins from Johan Ackermann this week. The former Springbok lock is now coaching Gloucester in England.
“I want to polish the brand even further,” insisted De Bruin on Thursday, when he named his team for Saturday Currie Cup match against the Sharks at Ellis Park.
“We’re not going to deviate from how the Lions have played in recent times ... we’re going to carry on playing the same brand of rugby. It would be foolish to break down the house now. If I do anything I’ll maybe add a new tint to one of the windows,” joked De Bruin.
He takes over at a difficult time in the season with the Currie Cup already heading into the fourth round of matches. But De Bruin’s involvement with the Super Rugby side prevented him from doing much more than consulting over the last two weeks.
Added to that, De Bruin has to make do without several stars that will be turning out for the Springboks in the coming weeks and months, while other Super Rugby players have headed to Japan to play club rugby.
Also, Akker van der Merwe has joined the Sharks, Ruan Ackermann has joined his father at Gloucester and Kwagga Smith is sitting out the next four weeks after copping a ban this week.
It is therefore a new-look team that will do duty this weekend, but there are also some familiar names on the team sheet, among them captain Ryan Kankowski, Sylvian Mahuza, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Cyle Brink, Robbie Coetzee, Corne Fourie and fit-again Jaco van der Walt.
De Bruin said it would be important to build even greater depth at the union ahead of the 2018 Super Rugby campaign.
“We must develop new future stars, and you can see that in the team that’s been selected,” he said.
“The Currie Cup is very important to us, even if one could argue we’re starting at a disadvantage (because the Lions are now only coming in with their full team). On Monday we turned the clock back to zero ... because this is a new management with new players. But it’s an exciting time, too.”
Saturday's meeting will be the fourth between the Lions and Sharks this season after the team met three times in Super Rugby; the Lions winning all three those matches.
Robert du Preez’s men, however, are coming off a good win against the Bulls and they’ll know they pushed the Lions close just a few weeks ago.
“They’re a really good side. They comfortably beat the Bulls at Loftus.
"They’ve got a bunch of Super Rugby players in the ranks and they’re a settled team ... it’s going to be a tough one.”
Lions team: Sylvian Mahuza, Madosh Tambwe, Jacques Nel, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Anthony Volmink, Jaco van der Walt, Dillon Smit, Ryan Kankowski (capt), Fabian Booysen, Cyle Brink, Marvin Orie, Robert Kruger, Johannes Jonker, Robbie Coetzee, Corne Fourie. Replacements: Michael Willemse, Sti Sithole, Bobby de Wee, Hacjivah Dayimani, Marco Janse van Vuuren, Siya Masuku, Aphiwe Dyantyi