Super Hero Sunday: Welcome to the Lions’ den
Jacques van der Westhuyzen looks at a few of the biggest new names to join the Lions in the off-season and who’s set to represent Marvel’s “Spiderman team” this year:
Jannie du Plessis
The 37-year-old tighthead specialist will bring plenty of experience to the Lions set-up.
A former stalwart of the Sharks, Montpellier and the Springboks, Du Plessis will hope to make a big impact - for the second time - in Super Rugby, playing alongside some of the most exciting young players in the country in the Lions team.
The twin brother of Springbok star Jesse didn’t quite cut it at the Bulls or Stormers, from where he joins the Lions, but will hope to get an extended run at the Lions.
At 25 he’s still got time on his side and will hope to make a big impression in the midfield alongside the likes of equally exciting Wandisile Simelane, who made his debut last year.
Kriel stands 1.93m tall so he’s a man who should command respect in the centres.
The 22-year-old enjoyed a phenomenal few months for the Lions while on loan from the Stormers last year, and he’s back for more, but now as a permanent and full-time Lions player.
He’ll battle with veteran Du Plessis for the No 3 jersey and could be one of the key men for coach Ivan van Rooyen as the Lions look to dominate up front and in the set-pieces over the coming months.
A player who feels he wasn’t given enough playing time at the Bulls, Smit is hungry for action in 2020 so expect some big things from the 27-year-old.
A few years ago he was on the brink of playing for the Springboks for injury to halt his rise.
At his best he’s a player who can mix it with the best on the ground and in the tight-loose; he’s likely to play in place of the now departed Kwagga Smith.
The man who’s played for the Free State and the Bulls and also featured once for the Springboks is hoping a move to Joburg and the Lions will rejuvenate his career.
At 30, Ulengo still has plenty to play for and he’ll hope to secure regular game time for his new team.
When in top form and hungry for action there are few wings in the country who can match his speed and power out wide.
After a fairly successful five years wearing the blue of the Bulls, the 26-year-old Cape Town-raised scrumhalf will be hopeful for bigger and better things in Joburg as a Lions No 9.
Warner has made a big impression since joining Van Rooyen’s team and will compete primarily with Ross Cronje for the starting position.
A strong player with a good pass, Warner could prove to be a quality signing.
Willem Alberts (possibly)
The veteran Bok star (35), who played for the Lions in his younger days, is believed to be on the verge of agreeing terms with the Lions and signing up for the year.
With plenty of experience, including playing 43 Tests, and the ability to slot in anywhere in the back-row and in the locks, Alberts could be a key man in the coming months.
He’s a powerful, no-nonsense player, with and without the ball.@jacq_west