Johannesburg - The return of captain and red-hot playmaker Burger Odendaal is a major boost for the Lions as they look to return to winning ways in the United Rugby Championship (URC) when Connacht visit Emirates Airline Park on Saturday.
The Lions had been on a four-match winning streak until they ran into the Sharks at a wet Hollywoodbets Kings Park and came a cropper but they will fancy themselves back on the fast, dry Highveld, where they have been unbeaten for those four games.
Odendaal had been in the best form of his life until he was unavailable because of Covid protocols and missed his team’s victory over Edinburgh and their loss to the Sharks.
Odendaal forms a formidable attacking formation alongside Jordan Hendrikse and Morne van den Berg.
Two other trump cards in tighthead Carlu Sadie and hooker Jaco Visagie were also removed by Covid protocols and the front row pair will play off the bench against the Irish team.
“The big thing for us now is to bounce back and it all starts with Connacht on Saturday,” assistant coach Ricardo Laubscher said.
“Key for us at this stage of the competition is to do well in our upcoming two games at home before we play Dragons away in our final fixture.”
Laubscher says Connacht will also strive for a win as they look to build on an eight-match winning record against South African teams.
“Connacht are a very good side, who play for each other and carry quite a bit of belief in how they do things,” he added.
“We will need to find ways of breaking them down and one way we believe we can achieve that is by playing to our strengths which we’ve executed quite well in previous weeks.”
Lions team – 15 Quan Horn, 14 Rabz Maxwane, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Burger Odendaal (c), 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Jordan Hendrikse, 9 Morne van den Berg, 8 Emmanuel Tshituka, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Francke Horn, 5 Reinhard Nothnagel, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 PJ Botha, 1 Sti Sithole.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 JP Smith, 18 Carlu Sadie, 19 Ruan Venter, 20 Sibusiso Sangweni, 21 Andre Warner, 22 Manuel Rass, 23 Tiaan Swanepoel.