Lions pick squad for next week’s United Rugby Championship opener against Zebre
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JOHANNESBURG – The Emirates Lions on Tuesday announced a 33-man squad which will kick-off their inaugural United Rugby Championship (URC) campaign next weekend, and it is a side packed with familiar faces and new-comers alike.
The Joburg-based side will have the honour of playing the first match of the newly-minted tournament when they face Italian side Zebre next week Friday in the opening match of the competition, while making, hopefully, a triumphant first impression for South African sides. As such, coach Ivan van Rooyen will be able to pick from several stalwarts of the union, while bleeding a bevy of youngsters to the rigours of European rugby.
Those veterans include Jaco Kriel, Ruan Dreyer, Jannie du Plessis, Sti Sithole, Burger Odendaal, Jaco Visagie and Jamba Ulengo, among others; and an exciting youthful contingent spear-headed by Wandisile Simelane, Vincent and Emmanuel Tshituka, Sibusiso Sangweni, Jordan Hendrikse and Morne van den Berg, to name a few.
Lions’ supporters will also be pleased to note the return of Wilhelm van der Sluys, whose selection will certainly strengthen the second-row, while adding another option amongst the loose-forwards.
New recruits on loan are also in the mix and include lock Pieter Jansen van Vuren, utility-back Eddie Fouche, centre Matt More, prop Morgan Naude and scrumhalf Ginter Smuts (all from the Pumas). Springboks Ross Cronje and Willem Alberts, and utility-back Gianni Lombard are not yet eligible for selection due to ongoing injury but will form part of the larger playing group.
"We're pretty excited about this group," said Van Rooyen in a statement released by the union on Tuesday.
"As a coaching unit we've been fortunate enough to have time to discuss and plan how we want to approach the URC. This was coupled with a few on-field sessions before settling on a final 33."
"We expect conditions to be challenging up north but at the same time looking forward to competing and establishing ourselves as the competition progresses.”
Lions URC Touring Squad
Forwards (19): PJ Botha, Morne Brandon, Ruan Dreyer, Jannie Du Plessis, Francke Horn, Pieter Jansen van Vuren, Jaco Kriel Morgan Naude, Reinhard Nothnagel, Asenathi Ntlabakanye, Carlu Sadie, Sibusiso Sangweni, Ruben Schoeman, Sti Sithole, Ruhan Straeuli, Emmanuel Tshituka, Vincent Tshituka, Wilhelm van der Sluys and Jaco Visagie.
Backs (14): Eddie Fouche, Jordan Hendrikse, Sibahle ‘Rabz’ Maxwane, Matt More, Burger Odendaal, Stean Pienaar, Manuel Rass, Divan Rossouw, Wandisile Simelane, Ginter Smuts, Jamba Ulengo, Morne Van den Berg, EW Viljoen and Andre Warner.
Lions tour fixtures
September 24: v Zebre @ Parma, Italy
October 1: v Scarlets @ Llanelli, Wales
October 9: v Glasgow Warriors @ Glasgow, Scotland
October 15: v Ulster @ Belfast, Ireland