There is no reason to believe that the Emirates Lions do not have the players to make an impact on the United Rugby Championship (URC), according to former Springbok Bob Skinstad.
The Joburg-based outfit are in the unfamiliar surrounds of northern Italy this week, and will play the opening match of the URC against Zebre at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi stadium in Parma, and despite an underwhelming Rainbow Cup and Currie Cup campaign, Skinstad; who played for the Cats in the early 2000s; believes they have the personal to do great things.
“The Lions really struggled early on in the Rainbow Cup and we know that they had a couple of bad results but it doesn’t mean that the quality of the squad they’ve got is poor,” said Skinstad.
“They will have to start well though,” he continued on a media briefing discussing the new tournament on Wednesday. “They have some big teams in the opening run but then they have got quality.”
As alluded to by Skinstad, and after their first match against the Italian-outfit on Friday (kick-off 6.35pm), the Joburgers will travel to Wales to face Scarlets, then face Glasgow Warriors of Scotland, before finishing off their European tour across the Irish Sea against Ulster. It is a young Lions team that will make the journey, a fact that Skinstad revealed will have its advantages and drawbacks for all SA sides involved.
“We’ve seen that the teams that are building with players who have come back from South Africa Under-20 and Under-23 duties have been able to perform,” said Skinstad.
“They have just got to be aware that you are taking on internationals at every turn. I’ll be in Belfast for the opening game (between Ulster and the Warriors) and then I am going down to Dublin (for the Leinster v Bulls encounter), and Ill be curious to see how quickly they (the SA sides) can get into their stride.
“This is the time for the Lions (and other SA teams) to pick up as many points as possible.”