South Africa

First starts for Rossouw‚ Maxwane‚ Odendaal for Lions against Stormers

Willem Alberts is a week or so away from match fitness and was omitted from the Lions team to play the Stormers in Super Fan Saturday at Loftus.

Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen‚ who named his squad on Thursday‚ said he has a squad with no serious injuries but that the Bok flank was a week away from being restored to full fitness.

The Lions team to play the Stormers is a much changed line-up from the one that last played in Super Rugby.

Nine of the players who started against the Blues in March no longer occupy a spot in the run-on team.

The team features a first-ever start in Lions’ colours for Divan Rossouw at fullback‚ Sibahle Maxwane at right wing‚ and Burger Odendaal at inside centre; while there are returns for flank Jaco Kriel and tighthead prop Ruan Dreyer.

Another new recruit‚ EW Viljoen‚ will start off the bench.

Although Viljoen made a name for himself at centre‚ Van Rooyen is hoping to tap into his versatility.

“Rugby is moving towards the versatile players. He is big and he is physical. He can play 13‚ 14 or 15‚” Van Rooyen said.

“In the air he will also bring a different dynamic for us. His anticipation is good‚ he kicks well behind opponents and he has a good passing game.”

The Lions struggled in the abandoned Super Rugby tournament earlier this year but Lions captain Elton Jantjies believes the team is well prepared for the restart.

“During lockdown how we would prepare in isolation was on our agenda. We trained in groups of five and we worked on our different programmes.

"It has become the new normal and certain adjustments needed to be made. We can’t go back. The team has embraced that‚” said Jantjies.

He added that the team isn’t too fazed about playing over the festive season in the seven-team Currie Cup.

“It will be exciting playing over New Year. It will be something different‚ something new. I spent time in Japan and there you also play over that period. So I’m used to it but the players in South Africa are not.”

With the Lions‚ as well as the other major franchises having to play in back-to-back Super Rugby and Currie Cup tournaments‚ they are going to need all the personnel they can get.

Van Rooyen may‚ however‚ have to rearrange his playing resources with Springbok call-ups likely to be factored in.

“That is not something that is in our control. That would be awesome for the players if it does happen and it would be a huge complement to them.

"We have confidence in our squad. We are working as a team and we are ready for that‚” said Van Rooyen.

Lions team:

Divan Rossouw; Sibahle Maxwane‚ Wandisile Simelane‚ Burger Odendaal‚ Courtnall Skosan; Elton Jantjies‚ Andre Warner; Hacjivah Dayimani‚ Vincent Tshituka‚ Jaco Kriel; Marvin Orie‚ Ruben Schoeman; Ruan Dreyer‚ Jaco Visagie‚ Dylan Smith.

Substitutes:

Sti Sithole‚ Jan-Henning Campher‚ Carlu Sadie‚ Wilhelm van der Sluys‚ Reinhard Nothnagel‚ MJ Pelser‚ Francke Horn‚ Len Massyn; Dillon Smith‚ Gianni Lombard‚ Stean Pienaar‚ Dan Kriel‚ Manuel Ras‚ Jamba Ulengo‚ EW Viljoen.

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