Lions name young side to face British & Irish Lions in Joburg cat fight
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JOHANNESBURG – The Lions, the Joburg ones, have made some surprising selections in their matchday squad to face the Lions, the British and Irish ones, in their opening match of the 2021 tour on Saturday at Emirates Airline Park (kick-off 7pm).
There are a handful of players who will miss out on participating in the opening match of the 2021 tour, either through Covid-related illness or missing the cut due to injury.
Those players include Springboks Jannie du Plessis, Jaco Kriel and MJ Pelser, and they will surely all be gutted at losing out. The absence of Du Plessis and Kriel, specifically, results in the Joburgers being light in the all-important department of experience, but then coach Ivan van Rooyen has placed his faith in future stars.
It is a young team and definitely not the Joburg Lions' most powerful matchday 23 but what it lacks in experience, it can make up for in youthful enthusiasm.
That philosophy is epitomised by Jordan Hendrikse – the 20-year-old finds himself in the starting XV with journeyman Fred Zeilinga on the bench. It is a huge opportunity for the flyhalf to make an impression on the tour and it also reveals a slither of coach Ivan van Rooyen's gameplan – a more attacking ethos that will rely on the big boot of the Baby Bok.
The most interesting selections are certainly in the front-row where Bok Ruan Dreyer, PJ Botha and Nathan McBeth get starts ahead of the power trio of Jaco Visagie, Sti Sithole and Carlu Sadie – and this might be a masterstroke later in the game, if the much vaunted altitude kicks in, and their fresh legs take advantage of the Highveld.
It could also backfire horribly.
Van Rooyen has also decided to rely on the young loose-trio of Francke Horn – who will captain the side – Vincent Tshituka and Sibusiso Sangweni, all under 24-year of age, to take on the aged wisdom of Taulupe Faletau, Hamish Watson, and Courtney Lawes – all 29-years and older.
The Lions have a side packed with future Springboks, but make no mistake, Saturday's encounter will be a massive test for the team – an exciting one, but a massive test nonetheless.
Lions starting XV: EW Viljoen; Jamba Ulengo, Manuel Rass, Burger Odendaal, Rabz Maxwane; Jordan Hendrikse, Dillon Smit; Francke Horn (capt), Vincent Tshituka, Sibusiso Sangweni; Reinhard Nothnagel, Ruben Schoeman; Ruan Dreyer, PJ Botha, Nathan McBeth. Replacements: Jaco Visagie, Sti Sithole, Carlu Sadie, Ruhan Straeuli, Emmanuel Tshituka, Morne van den Berg, Fred Zeilinga, Dan Kriel
British and Irish Lions starting XV: Stuart Hogg (capt), Louis Rees-Zammit, Chris Harris, Owen Farrell, Josh Adams, Finn Russell, Ali Price, Taulupe Faletau, Hamish Watson, Courtney Lawes, Jonny Hill, Maro Itoje, Kyle Sinckler, Jamie George, Wyn Jones; Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Mako Vunipola, Zander Fagerson, Iain Henderson, Sam Simmonds, Gareth Davies, Bundee Aki, Elliot Daly