We look at four players who have the opportunity to make their mark and break into the Lions first team.
THE LIONS begin their preparations for the new season in earnest against the Pumas today (Ellis Park, 7pm), with a squad full of their fringe and youth players, as well as a dollop of certainties for good measure. Here we look at four players who have the opportunity to make their mark and break into the first team.
The Namibia-born utility back has hardly had a look in at the Lions since joining from the Bulls last year, but that could well change this season with the European-orientated Rainbow Cup on the horizon.
Rossouw can play in multiple positions – he has been selected as a wing against the Pumas – including at fullback, centre and scrumhalf.
With the long-term injury to Gianni Lombard confirmed, and the possibility of Tiaan Swanepoel acting more as cover to flyhalf Elton Jantjies, the versatility of Rossouw could be a major boon to the team.
Taking advantage of the next month of preparation matches will therefore be very important for the 24-year-old as he seeks a way to get more regular game time.
Swanepoel was something of a revelation last season with his generally solid displays and booming penalty kicks, which added another dimension to the Lions’ overall play.
The 24-year-old played mostly at fullback, coming in after the injuries to Lombard and EW Viljoen.
Against the Pumas, he has been handed the responsibility of the No 10 jersey, and if he performs in that position, will certainly solve the lack of depth issue in that area.
The question of his selection in the near future will then be whether to play him off the bench as cover for Jantjies and fullback, or to continue with him at No 15.
There are a troop of players who can play at the back, including Viljoen and Rossouw, so his ultimate role is still very much TBC.
Big things are expected from the 21-year-old eighthman, and many considered Horn a future Springbok.
The former Baby Bok made his senior professional debut last season for the Lions, so it is now more a case of blooding the young man.
The Lions are packed with talent in the loose-forward department, including the favoured trio of Len Massyn, Vincent Tshituka and Springbok Jaco Kriel, so Horn will have to come out firing on all cylinders against the Pumas from the get-go if he has to have any sniff at being selected for the forthcoming Rainbow Cup.
There is no doubt, however, that he will be equal to the task, such is his talent and bright future.
The forgotten man of SA rugby, Smit was once considered to be the future of Springbok rugby. He has one international Test cap to his name, and had it not been for injury, would probably have even more.
When at his best, the former Blue Bulls man is a menace on the ground at the breakdown – an area where you could argue the Lions lacked a bit of impetus during last season.
He has played very little for the Joburgers, consigned to the fringes of the squad or being selected on the bench, but competent performances in the next month or so could vastly improve his bargaining power as he works towards a staring berth amongst the preferred XV.
Lions Starting XV (15-1): EW Viljoen; Prince Nkabinde, Manuel Rass, James Mollentze, Divan Rossouw; Tiaan Swanepoel, Morné van den Berg; Francke Horn, Roelof Smit, Marnus Schoeman, Reinhard Nothnagel (captain), Emmanuel Tshituka, Wiehahn Herbst, PJ Botha, Nathan McBeth. Bench: Dameon Venter, Banele Mthenjane, Jannie du Plessis, Ruhan Straeuli, MJ Pelser, Dillon Smit, Luke Rossouw, Ngia Selengbe, Ruan Dreyer, Izan Esterhuizen, Sibusiso Sangweni