JOHANNESBURG - After weeks of speculation, the Rainbow Cup has formed from a nebulous uncertainty to a tangible reality and now that it is confirmed, Ivan ‘Cash’ van Rooyen is all for it.
“We are really excited,” said the Lions coach in an interview with Independent Media yesterday.
“It is an opportunity to play in a competition against the top South African teams.
“We saw this weekend; Leinster and Munster are probably up there in Europe, not just in ProRugby,” Van Rooyen continued. “So it is a great opportunity for us, an opportunity for some of the older guys to show what they’ve got, and an opportunity for the youngsters – some probably haven't even left South Africa – to play in a top, international competition like that.
“We are looking forward to it, we are excited, and we are working hard towards it.”
The last month has always been about getting ready for the Rainbow Cup, even though it was not always clear whether the tournament would go ahead.
As such, Van Rooyen and Co used their four preparation matches, which included victories against the Pumas, Eastern Province and Sharks, and most recently a loss to the Stormers – to knock themselves into shape for an African-European tournament, and all the unclaimed baggage that comes with it.
The Lions coach, therefore, believes that there are a handful of strengths that must be mastered to compete against the European clubs if not only his team is to be successful, but also the other three franchises, the Bulls, Sharks and Stormers.
“Their game (the ProRugby teams) are based on three pillars,” Van Rooyen explained.
“One being set-piece, one being defensive pressure, and the third one being the kicking game and the ability to convert to poles.
“From defence, you can score turnover tries, obviously reset the line from the boot, and the set-piece can get you out of jail or put you in a position where you can convert and get points. Those are the three main areas, in my opinion, if you look at Europe.”
Van Rooyen also disclosed that the union was keen on former Cheetahs player Fred Zeilinga.
The 28-year-old flyhalf has been on trial with the Lions for the last month, and the coach believes that Zeilinga has done enough to warrant further participation at the union in an effort to shore up the No 10 berth behind captain Elton Jantjies.
"We are in the process of getting a commitment,” he said.
“We feel that with Elton and the British and Irish Lions and the Springboks, it is good just to have a senior 10 in our system.
“The versatility that Tiaan (Swanepoel) gives us at 10 and 15 is also good, but having one older head at 10 could work for us.
“Zeilinga has joined us for four weeks, we gave him two games. Obviously he needs some game-time and match-fitness; he hasn't played in more than a year, but I think he showed us enough to get excited about.”
The new adventure for SA rugby starts on April 24 with the Lions facing a familiar foe in the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria in the Rainbow Cup opening round.