JOHANNESBURG – Not one of the Lions’ big guns will be in action when the three-time competition runners-up clash with the Bulls in a Super Rugby pre-season game in Pretoria on Saturday.
Coach Swys de Bruin has opted rather to field all the union’s brightest young stars in the match that kicks off at 3pm at the Loftus Versfeld B field. The match will be one of two the Lions will play ahead of the start of the competition in the middle of next month.
Springbok stars and Lions stalwarts like Andries Coetzee, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Courtnall Skosan, Lionel Mapoe, Ruan Combrinck, Elton Jantjies, Ross Cronje, Warren Whiteley, Kwagga Smith and Malcolm Marx will all watch proceedings from the side of the field on Saturday, if at all.
Instead, De Bruin has turned to the promising junior players at the Lions to go head to head with the Bulls and show what they are made of. All of them will be out to impress as they push for places in the final Super Rugby squad – to be named following next week’s second warm-up game, which will be played against the Sharks at the Superhero Day in Cape Town next Saturday.
Among the juniors who’ll be out to catch the eye of De Bruin are rising wing Wandisile Simelane, centres Manny Rass and Tyrone Green, flyhalf Gianni Lombard and rookie front-rowers Nathan McBeth, Jan-Henning Campher and Asenathi Ntlabakanye.
New Lions recruit from the Bulls, prop Frans van Wyk, will also get a chance to show his mettle this weekend. The team will be captained by 31-times capped Super Rugby utility back Sylvian Mahuza, who’ll don the No 15 jumper this week.
Formerly injured players like Cronje, Andries Ferreira, Cyle Brink and Mapoe will only return to action when the competition proper gets underway in the middle of next month, with the other Bok stars set to feature in some of next week’s match in the Cape.
The Lions’ first competition game is against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires in the middle of February.
The Lions team is:
Sylvian Mahuza, Madosh Tambwe, Manny Rass, Tyrone Green, Wandisile Simelane, Gianni Lombard, Morne van der Berg, Darrien-Lane Landsberg, Vincent Tshituka, MJ Pelser, Rhyno Herbst, Ruan Vermaak, Asenathi Ntlabakanye, Jan-Henning Campher, Nathan McBeth.
Pieter Jansen, Danie Mienie, Frans van Wyk, PJ Steenkamp, Roelof Smith, James Venter, Jo-Hanko de Villiers, Dian Schoonees, Bradley Thain, Eddie Fouche, Louritz van der Schyff, Jan-Louis la Grange, Stean Pienaar, Jean-luc Cilliers@jacq_west