Lions name strong squad for Currie Cup semi-final against Bulls
JOHANNSBURG – Whatever the outcome on Saturday in their Carling Currie Cup semi-final against the Bulls, there will be no arraignment afterwards regarding the team that coach Ivan van Rooyen has selected for the encounter.
The matchday 23 Van Rooyen has selected for the clash is arguably the team's most rounded and experienced – if not their best – and they will need every ounce of that knowledge to overcome a Bulls side that they have not yet beaten this season. They are two-and-oh against Jake White's men after a pair of narrow losses – 30-25 last year and more recently 22-15.
As such the good doctor, and Springbok, Jannie du Plessis will pack down at tighthead. The veteran of 70 Tests will be joined by the welcome return of Sti Sithole, who had an impressive run before his injury last year, with the unheralded Jaco Visagie in the middle. As a side note to the forwards, Van Rooyen is no doubt expecting another physical battle and as such has gone with a 6-2 split on the bench, the muti-versed Morne van den Berg and Dan Kriel acting as backup for the backline.
One of the major questions answered in Thursday's team announcement was the composition of centre-pairing, and Lions fans will be happy to know that it too has an exciting balance of power and unpredictability to it. Former Bulls captain Burger Odendaal will start at 12 to smash his way through the middle, while Wandisile Simelane can spot a gap and an off-load when it presents itself.
Other than those handful of changes, the team takes on a familiar look. The big boot of Tiaan Swanepoel will punish any indiscretions of the Bulls, with captain Elton Jantjies pulling the strings at No 10, while Andre Warner has been solid enough at scrumhalf to become the incumbent No 9. The 'Bone Collector' Willem Alberts will complement an equally belligerent Marvin Orie in the second row, while the loosies of Springbok Jaco Kriel, Vincent Tshituka and Len Massyn have all the ability and talent to turn and run the Bulls pack ragged.
Van Rooyen has kept faith in his wing combo of Stean Pienaar and Courtnall Skosan, and why not – the two have taken the little chances presented to them, while Pienaar in particular adds that extra grunt with ball in hand.
Kick-off for the semi – the first between the two sides since 2005 – is at 2pm.
Lions Starting XV: Tiaan Swanepoel; Stean Pienaar, Wandisile Simelane, Burger Odendaal, Courtnall Skosan; Elton Jantjies (captain), André Warner; Len Massyn, Vincent Tshituka, Jaco Kriel, Marvin Orie, Willem Alberts, Jannie du Plessis, Jaco Visagie, Sti Sithole;
Replacements: Jan-Henning Campher, Ruan Dreyer, Carlu Sadie, Reinhard Nothnagel, Wilhelm van der Sluys, Morné van den Berg, Dan Kriel; Tour squad: Francke Horn, Nathan McBeth, EW Viljoen, Ross Cronjé