Lions name combative team for Sharks showdown
Coach Van Rooyen confident his players are on the brink of a new era, ready to do the talking on the field
It is a line-up fit for purpose rather than what he thinks to be his best starting XV that Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen will deploy against the Sharks in Durban on Friday.
He would have scratched his head over a number of selections but eventually settled on a combination that is perhaps a little more combative in nature.
“I don’t like the term ‘horses for courses’ but I think the way things will turn out‚ the weather and the way we want to play, this is the right 15 for us‚” Van Rooyen said after unveiling a team that has former Springbok flank Willem Alberts at lock and former Western Province centre EW Viljoen at fullback.
Viljoen‚ hooker Jaco Visagie‚ wing Rabz Maxwane and centre Burger Odendaal, who all joined the franchise during lockdown, will earn a first Super Rugby start for their adopted franchise.
“EW played a lot of his junior rugby at 15‚” Van Rooyen pointed out.
“He’s got a great natural feel towards the ball. He gives us a great right-foot option from the back. He’s nice and tall and good under the high ball. We are excited about what he can bring at 15. He’s versatile. We like having versatile players.
“Willem came back to training only last week. He brings nice physicality at four for us. He’s played there and we feel he can do a job for us there.
“Just having Willem in this system is unbelievable in terms of what he brings to the team room‚ the meetings as well as off the field is immense for us. He is a great character to have around.
“He understands what we want from him. He is very comfortable with what he can bring. Having him lean and in shape is exciting for us. He isn’t necessarily ready to play 80 minutes but we have a big ball-carrying No 4 that can do the grunt for us. The way the Sharks pack play, a bit of grunt can never hurt.”
There was no room in the starting team for the exciting Wandisile Simelane‚ Gianni Lombard or Hacjivah Dayimani. The dazzlers will have to make their presence felt in the second half.
Carlu Sadie cracks the nod ahead of Springbok tighthead Ruan Dreyer, who has been named among the replacements with nine other players.
Van Rooyen said that two substitutes would fall away once he had assessed conditions in Durban.
The Lions‚ who were underwhelming in the abandoned Super Rugby competition earlier in 2020‚ see the rebooted competition as a chance to turn the page.
“This is the beginning of a new era for us‚” said Van Rooyen. “This is the opportunity to start something fresh‚ start our own story‚ write our own story. To get close as a team.
“As a team, we are committed to moving forward in all facets. To get closer as a team. The talking must happen on the field.”
Lions: EW Viljoen; Jamba Ulengo‚ Burger Odendaal‚ Dan Kriel‚ Rabz Maxwane; Elton Jantjies (captain)‚ Dillon Smit; Len Massyn‚ Vincent Tshituka‚ Jaco Kriel; Marvin Orie‚ Willem Alberts; Carlu Sadie‚ Jaco Visagie‚ Sti Sithole. Replacements: Jan-Henning Campher‚ Dylan Smith‚ Wiehahn Herbst‚ Wilhelm van der Sluys‚ MJ Pelser‚ Hacjivah Dayimani‚ Morné van den Berg‚ Gianni Lombard‚ Wandisile Simelane‚ Ruan Dreyer.
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