Lions bank on cubs as coach Van Rooyen rotates squad
He has put together a team of 26 headed by hooker Jaco Visagie as captain for Sunday’s game against Perpignan in France
As expected, Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen opted to rotate his squad for his team’s away clash in the Challenge Cup against Perpignan on Sunday.
The bulk of the squad that did duty against the Dragons will not make the trip to the southernmost tip of mainland France.
Perpignan have been going south in a figurative sense too in the Top 14 and their 13th position on the points table perhaps helped the Lions decide to rest their front-line players.
Van Rooyen has assembled 26 players with hooker Jaco Visagie named as captain for Sunday’s game.
Their tour group includes veteran fullback Andries Coetzee, the most experienced player in the backline, while Gianni Lombard and Jordan Hendrikse cracked the nod as flyhalves.
Visagie and Corné Fourie are the most experienced players upfront.
“Rotation was always part of the plan for this trip to France,” said Van Rooyen. “We have the opportunity to tap into the squad we have for the next two weeks of Challenge Cup fixtures both away and home.
“To get the performance we want and to potentially win both games [Perpignan and Newcastle Falcons], we will rely on the players at our disposal as we have huge confidence in using the broader squad. We’ve prepared and trained accordingly for the past two to three weeks, so we’ll be ready to go.”
The Falcons are also heading in the wrong direction. They have lost eight matches in a row in the Premiership but, more disturbingly, the club is in financial trouble.
The Lions’ first two matches are perhaps their most forgiving in the pool stages.
The other teams in Pool 2 of the competition are the Ospreys and Benetton Treviso, who are flying high in the United Rugby Championship (URC).
The Challenge Cup boasts a new format for this season. It still features 18 teams with eight emerging from the URC, six from the Top 14, two from the Premiership and two invited clubs (the Cheetahs and Black Lion from Georgia).
The guiding principles of the draw limit the number of Top 14 teams to two per pool while the two Premiership clubs have to be in different pools. In addition, teams from the same shield in the URC cannot be in the same pool; the same applies for the two invited clubs.
The top four teams from the three pools will qualify for the knockout phase and will be joined in the last-16 knockout by four teams from the Champions Cup.
The final will be played at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London on May 24 next year.
Lions touring squad:
Backs: Andries Coetzee, Erich Cronjé, Zander du Plessis, Boldwin Hansen, Jordan Hendrikse, Rynhardt Jonker, Gianni Lombard, Rabz Maxwane, Johan Mulder, Stean Pienaar, Nico Steyn.
Forwards: Morné Brandon, Izan Esterhuizen, Corné Fourie, Travis Gordon, Morgan Naude, Etienne Oosthuizen, Heiko Pohlmann, JC Pretorius, Raynard Roets, Sibusiso Sangweni, Hanru Sirgel, Ruan Smith, Ruhan Straeuli, Conrad van Vuuren, Jaco Visagie.
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