Wandisile Simelane will be hoping to impress in the Currie Cup. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
JOHANNESBURG 
 Experiment. That’s the pledge by coach Ivan van Rooyen as he takes charge of the team - for the second year running - in the absence of Swys de Bruin, who is working with the Springboks for the rest of the year.

“It’s a short competition, with six round-robin games, so there’s not a lot of time, which makes it very interesting, but I think there’s room for some experimenting to be done, why not?” said Van Rooyen yesterday.

“Let’s see how much fun we can have and how creative we can be,” he added.

The Lions open their challenge with a match against the Pumas at Ellis Park on Saturday afternoon.

Van Rooyen will work with a bunch of young, rising stars as up to 20 players who have featured regularly for the Lions in Super Rugby and the Currie Cup in recent times won’t be available.

They’re men who have either left the Lions recently, are injured or training with the Boks.

“There are a bunch of new players in the mix.

"Some have limited Super Rugby experience, while some haven’t even played Currie Cup rugby before,” said Van Rooyen.

“But it’s exciting.

"We can have a look and see what these young guys can do, we can be a bit creative, add a few things to our game, and start laying the foundation for next year’s Super Rugby competition.

“We did a thorough review of our 2019 Super Rugby campaign and like always we’ve identified areas that need work and attention, and we’re going to try to fix some of those things in the Currie Cup as well. There’s not a lot of time though, which is a little unfortunate, so it’s a case of ‘head down and let’s go’,” he said.

The good news is there is still an experienced core, with men like prop Dylan Smith, flank Marnus Schoeman, scrumhalf Ross Cronje and others, who’ve been around for a while, to guide the youngsters.

“I’ll challenge the players over the coming weeks and hopefully some of them will get plenty of game-time and experience, looking ahead to next year,” said Van Rooyen.

“We need to look further ahead than just next season though, we need to look to the next few years, and we have to start now in laying those foundations.”

The Lions team to face the Pumas will be named this afternoon. Last year, the Lions beat the Nelspruit-based Pumas 33-21 at Mbombela Stadium.

The team will thereafter enjoy a bye week.

@jacq_west


The Star

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