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Lions seeking improved line-out in United Rugby Championship clash

The Cardiff United Rugby Championship encounter will see the return of Lions lock Reinhard Nothnagel in the No 5 jumper. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

The Cardiff United Rugby Championship encounter will see the return of Lions lock Reinhard Nothnagel in the No 5 jumper. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Published Mar 11, 2022

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Johannesburg - If all goes to plan and the rugby gods decree it so, then the Emirates Lions will have a much-improved line-out on Sunday against Cardiff Rugby at Emirates Airline Park (kick-off 4pm).

One of the Joburgers biggest bugbears this year has been that particular set-piece, which has failed them at crucial times on attack and in defence.

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Indeed, the Lions only have an 81 percent success rate at the line-out, losing 25 of their own throw-ins in the United Rugby Championship (URC). When compared to their scrums, which sits at a 95 percent success-rate, the discrepancy between the two becomes clear.

Yes, there have been serious disruptions to the line-out due to a batch of injuries, but the Cardiff encounter will see the return of lock Reinhard Nothnagel in the No 5 jumper.

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You'd expect the 24-year-old will take immediate responsibility of that set-piece, and bring with him an improvement. Moreover, Nothnagel’s return will increase the danger of the attacking maul, another area which the Lions have failed to capitalise to maximum effect.

“We’re pretty pleased to have Notties back,” said Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen in the statement revealing the matchday 23, released by the union on Friday. “Our line-out stocks have been quite thin due to injuries, so to have him at No 5 is quite exciting.”

Van Rooyen has made one other change to the starting XV, welcoming back Vincent Tshituka at flank in a renewed partnership with captain Jaco Kriel and Franke Horn. It drops Ruan Venter, who had an industrious display against Leinster a fortnight ago, to the bench.

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Vincent’s younger brother Emmanuel, meanwhile, will sit alongside Venter, as will prop JP Smith – the only other change to the team. Quan Horn also retains his place at full-back after an impressive and fearless display two weeks ago, with Tiaan Swanepoel once again acting as cover for flyhalf and at No 15.

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The Cardiff encounter starts a four-week run at home for the Lions, which also includes matches against Munster, Ospreys and Edinburgh; and which represents a manageable opportunity for the home side to snap a five-match run of defeats in the URC and lift themselves out of the doldrums.

Said Van Rooyen of the clash: "Cardiff Rugby will be an interesting tussle this Sunday. They will be our first international team we face at home in the competition.

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“We had prepared quite intensely for them previously, so this week has been focused on tweaking a few things having analysed their play over the past two months. It's a home game so we are backing ourselves for a positive result.

"The players are feeling upbeat attitude-wise, especially after our spirited performance away to Leinster a fortnight ago,” he concluded.

Lions starting XV to face Cardiff:15 Quan Horn, 14 Stean Pienaar, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Jordan Hendrikse, 9 Morne van den Berg, 8 Francke Horn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Jaco Kriel (capt), 5 Reinhard Nothnagel, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Sithembiso Sithole.

Replacements: 16 PJ Botha; 17 JP Smith; 18 Ruan Dreyer; 19 Ruan Venter; 20 Emmanuel Tshituka; 21 Nico Steyn; 22 Manuel Rass; 23 Tiaan Swanepoel

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