Cape Town – It is not quite a full-strength United Rugby Championship team, but Lions coach Mziwakhe Nkosi has managed to assemble a powerful match-23 for Saturday’s Currie Cup opener against Western Province.
Travis Gordon will captain the side from No 8, but there are a number of players who have extensive URC experience that will front up to Province at Ellis Park (3.30pm kickoff).
In the backline alone, fullback Tiaan Swanepoel is a well-travelled figure, having played in Australia before, and his long-distance goal-kicking prowess has already achieved legendary status in Johannesburg.
Then wing Stean Pienaar has been a regular component of the URC outfit, and the same applies to livewire scrumhalf Morné van den Berg.
Openside flank Sibusiso Sangweni has been a prominent force in the senior side too, and his work-rate across the park will be vital against what is likely to be a strong WP side as well, which will be announced later on Friday.
The tight-five is loaded with serious operators in the engine-room. The front row of Sti Sithole, Jaco Visagie and Ruan Smith have laid the platform for a number of forward-moving scrums, while locks Darrien Landsberg and Pieter Janse van Vuuren have the requisite lineout skills and mobility around the park to play key roles in the Lions’ attacking structures too.
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There are further well-known names on the replacements bench, with hooker Michael van Vuuren, loosehead prop Morgan Naudé and URC loose forwards Ruhan Straeuli and Jarod Cairns.
There are a couple of promising youngsters to look out for, though. Centres Tyler Bocks and Matt More have the power, pace and skills to unlock defences with ball-in-hand, while blindside flank Ruan Delport has been on the Lions URC bench a few times and would want to impress senior coach Ivan van Rooyen.
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Lions team: 15 Tiaan Swanepoel 14 Stean Pienaar 13 Matt More 12 Tyler Bocks 11 Boldwin Hansen 10 Vaughan Isaacs 9 Morné van den Berg 8 Travis Gordon (captain) 7 Ruan Delport 6 Sibusiso Sangweni 5 Darrien Landsberg 4 Pieter Janse van Vuuren 3 Ruan Smith 2 Jaco Visagie 1 Sti Sithole.
Replacements: 16 Michael van Vuuren 17 Morgan Naudé 18 Kabous Bezuidenhout 19 Raynard Roets 20 Ruhan Straeuli 21 Jarod Cairns 22 Nico Steyn 23 Zeilinga Strydom.