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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Lion bolster depth with three new signings

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Cape Town – The Lions bolstered their squad depth on Tuesday with the unveiling of three new signings to the union for the 2023-24 season.

Former Zebre players Richard Kriel and Erich Cronje, and Conraad van Vuuren from the Free State Cheetahs, have joined the Johannesburg-based outfit. Zander du Plessis, who has played for the union at franchise level, meanwhile, makes a permanent move from the Griquas.

Tighthead prop Van Vuuren has played a handful of matches for the Cheetahs in their Currie Cup this season, including their last two matches against the Blue Bulls and Pumas. The 27-year-old will find healthy competition for the No 3 jumper at the Lions as he competes against the likes of Springbok Ruan Dreyer, Ruan Smith and arguably their best front-row player this past season Asenathi Ntlabakanye.

Kriel and Cronje, meanwhile, return to South Africa after completing their jaunt for the Italian franchise. Both played in excess of 10 games for Zebre this past season.

The tall and lanky Kriel can play at fullback and centre. He will have his work cut out for him in unseating the ever-improving and diamond in the rough that is Quan Horn at the back of the backline. Much like Cronje, Kriel will also have to convince the Lions think-tank that he brings more to the squad than Marius Louw, Manie Rass, Rynhardt Jonker, Matt More and arguably the most exciting prospect of all – the returning Henco van Wyk – in the midfield.

Du Plessis, meanwhile, has been spoken of favourably in the corridors of Doornfontein this past year, so it comes as no surprise that the 23-year-old makes a permanent move from Kimberley to Joburg. He is a multi-faceted player who can cover flyhalf, centre and fullback.

He played seven matches for the Lions in the United Rugby Championship – making his starting debut against Ospreys – and Challenge Cup this past season. Du Plessis, with respect to the other signings, is arguably the most exciting of the signings, with some pundits comparing his yet fully realised talents to that of Bok Francois Steyn.

@FreemanZAR

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