JOHANNESBURG - Several of the Lions’ exciting junior stars who featured at the recent Under-20 World Cup in France are in line to make their Currie Cup debuts this Friday.
Backs Wandisile Simelane, Tyrone Green, Jack Hart and forwards PJ Steenkamp, Nathan McBeth, Dian Schoonees and Ruan Vermaak are some of the Lions’ juniors who’ve been training with the seniors ahead of the Currie Cup competition, and could come into the selection mix this week. Other youngsters like Gianni Lombard and Manny Rass played Currie Cup rugby last year already.
The Lions get their campaign underway on Friday when they host Griquas at Ellis Park. New coach Cash van Rooyen, who takes over from Swys de Bruin for the competition, will finalise his first team of the campaign on Tuesday and will be able to consider Springboks Ross Cronje and Marvin Orie, who were released from the national squad on Sunday.
They are likely to play this weekend alongside other Super Rugby stalwarts like Dylan Smith, Hacjivah Dayimani, Courtnall Skosan, Madosh Tambwe and Andries Coetzee. Howard Mnisi, who hasn’t been offered a new contract by the Lions and will leave the union at the end of the competition, is also likely to feature this Friday and in the coming weeks.
Unavailable because of national commitments are Malcolm Marx, Warren Whiteley, Elton Jantjies, Lionel Mapoe and Aphiwe Dyantyi. Also missing for the competition are Kwagga Smith, Lourens Erasmus, Harold Vorster and Ruan Combrinck, who are all playing club rugby in Japan.
Franco Mostert, Ruan Dreyer, Jacques van Rooyen, Jaco Kriel and Rohan Janse van Rensburg are also lost to the union, having taken up contracts with clubs in Europe. Two other senior players who will not easily feature this year are lock Andries Ferreira and hooker Robbie Coetzee, both of whom are nursing long-term injuries.
Newcomer to the Lions, prop Danie Mienie, who has joined from Toulouse in France, has started training with his new team-mates and he will be considered for duty this week already.
Van Rooyen, who has been the Super Rugby team’s conditioning and strength specialist for several years, will also have to name a new captain to take the team through the season. Cronje, who has led the side before, will be the favourite to fulfil the role, but Mnisi will also be in the running and so, too, fullback Coetzee.
The Lions had a bye weekend in round one, while Griquas lost first-up, to the Pumas, in Nelspruit. Friday’s match kicks off at 7pm.