JOHANNESBURG - The Lions have a strong core group of players to bank on in this year’s Super Rugby, which kicks off on Saturday with a match against the Sharks at Ellis Park, but there are several young cubs who will also be looking to make an impression.
Here rugby writer Jacques van der Westhuyzen identifies five young players to keep an eye on.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo-born wing, who learned his rugby at Parktown Boys' High and who is just 20-years-old, made quite a sensational impact in the early stages of Super Rugby a year ago when he deputised for the injured Ruan Combrinck, something he may do again with the Springbok wing again on the sidelines with a shoulder injury. He scored a few wonderful tries to show his potential and could again make a name for himself this year. At 1.87m tall and tipping the scales at almost 90kg Tambwe is a wing to be reckoned with. He’s got speed and power and a nose for the tryline so expect big things from him when the competition gets going this weekend.
He was told at school he was too small to be a rugby player and actually gave up the sport. But while at the University of Johannesburg he returned to his first love and after playing for his hostel, he quickly made his way into the UJ Varsity Cup side. He shone for the team at centre, and last year was deemed one of the best centres in the competition by being picked for the Dream Team. Dyantyi then broke into the Lions Currie Cup side, and showed he has the skills and pace required to succeed at Super Rugby level. He gets his chance this season and will hope to get the backing of his coach Swys de Bruin in the coming weeks.
First Marnitz Boshoff served as Elton Jantjies’ back-up at flyhalf and then it was the turn of Jaco van der Walt, but both have left the Lions, leaving the franchise a little thin in the No 10 stocks. Reynolds, 22, and Ashlon Davids, 24, are both in the Super Rugby squad and will battle it out to be Jantjies’ flyhalf deputy, with Reynolds possibly just ahead in the queue. At nearly 1.90m tall and weighing 90kg he’s a big man who showed during pre-season that he also has a fine goal-kicking game... and he can play at fullback too. Don’t write Davids off though; he’ll be desperate to see some Super Rugby action.
Marco Jansen van Vuren
Springbok No 9 Ross Cronje is without question the first-choice scrumhalf in the Lions squad; more so now that Faf de Klerk is no longer part of the team, but just who the deputy will be this season will be revealed over the coming weeks. Young Jansen van Vuren, the 21-year-old Joost van der Westhuizen-like player is 1.88m tall and weighs 88kg... he appears to be that man. He is tall and strong and enjoys breaking around the fringes, and should be Cronje’s back-up man this season. He played for South Africa Schools and the SA Under-20 team, and could be a player with X-factor coming off the bench.
At just 20-years-old Dayimani is still very young and raw, but he showed in last season’s Currie Cup that he has something special about him. Big and tall (1.89m and 100kg) and fast as well (he apparently runs the 100m in 10.70 seconds), he has the perfect physique to be a massively successful loose forward - and he’s got hunger and silky smooth skills, too. Breaking into the starting team will be difficult when all the Lions’ loose forwards are fit, but he’s sure to get his chance at some stage. Keep an eye on this young man who is sure to be one of SA rugby’s next big players.