Johannesburg - The Emirates Lions loose-trio will have the unenviable task of fronting up against a powerful, and possibly Springbok-laden Sharks pack, without the services of Vincent Tshituka, a statement from the union revealed yesterday.
The powerful and inspiring Tshituka will not participate in the United Rugby Championship encounter tomorrow (kick-off 3pm) against the Durban-based outfit due to injury. Instead, and starting for the Lions in the No 7 jumper, will be the workman-like enthusiasm of Ruhan Straeuli. The 23-year-old will be joined by incumbent protagonists in the loosies, former Baby Bok Francke Horn and Springbok Jaco Kriel.
It is one of two changes that coach Ivan van Rooyen has made to the starting XV from their previous URC match against the Stormers in December; the other being the return of Pumas loan Pieter Jansen van Vuren in the second-row. The 30-year-old replaces Reinhard Nothnagel, who drops out of the matchday 23 completely.
“We are pleased to have Pieter back”, said Van Rooyen in the team announcement.
“He was great for us on tour before injury halted his momentum. He’s trained really well over the past few weeks, and he is eager to get stuck in again.”
“It’s unfortunate to lose Vincent due to an injury setback”, the coach continued, “but the opportunity now presents itself for Ruhan to come in and do the job for us in concert with (Kriel) and (Horn).“
As expected and after his best showing in the No 10 jersey, Fred Zeilinga retains his position at pivot and - together with scrumhalf Andre Warner - will marshal an exciting backline, which includes Rabz Maxwane, the immense presence of captain Burger Odendaal, Wandisile Simelane, Edwill van der Merwe and EW Viljoen.
Nevertheless, it is expected that there will be an almighty tussle upfront; and Van Rooyen has backed his main men in that department with a frontrow of Sti Sithole, Jaco Visagie and Carlus Sadie entrusted to wrestle control away from the Sharks at the set-piece.
The introduction of an enforcer in the vein of Van Vuren will also play an important role in that battle for supremacy, while Willem Alberts and Emmanuel Tshituka will take the fight to the visitors in the later stages of the match off the bench.
Emirates Lions starting XV: 15 EW Viljoen 14, Edwill van der Merwe, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Burger Odendaal (capt), 11 Sibahle Maxwane, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Andre Warner; 8 Francke Horn, 7 Ruhan Straeuli, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Pieter Jansen van Vuren, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Sti Sithole; Replacements: 16 PJ Botha, 17 Morgan Naude, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Willem Alberts, 20 Emmanuel Tshituka, 21 Morne van den Berg, 22 Matt More, 23 Tiaan Swanepoel