The Lions named arguably their most inexperienced side, there are several changes to the team affording an opportunity to the team’s young guns
JOHANNESBURG – It is all a part of the plan …
As expected, the Lions announced a matchday squad yesterday brimming with the union’s youngsters for their second preparation match against Eastern Province.
It is arguably their most inexperienced side, the several changes to the team affording an opportunity to the team’s young guns to run out in Gqeberha tomorrow (kick-off 4.45pm) to stake a claim for selection later in the season.
And both head coach Ivan van Rooyen and Mziwakhe Nkosi, the Lions Under-20 coach, were clear in what they expected from their young stars.
Said Nkosi: “First and foremost, they have to play well.
“Secondly, if they can show application as to what we want to achieve in terms of the way we play, and their roles and the details of how we play, those are one or two things that can put them in the reckoning, especially towards the next fortnight leading up to the (Stormers) and Sharks games.
“It is an opportunity for them, and if they grab it, that is really good and it will make our jobs much harder but that is a really nice problem to have.”
Van Rooyen concurred in the assessment that the midweek clash would be a fantastic stage for the cubs of the union to show their talents and skills and give the technical team food for thought as they build towards the Rainbow Cup in April.
“Individually, it is a great opportunity to have to showcase to us, and to the world, what they can do in the game,” said Van Rooyen.
“The ability to excite, to beat your man, to express themselves, and then with the system, to show an understanding of that system, whether in attack, or defence, or in the line-outs, mauls, scrums, or whatever.
“So, the ability to apply themselves in the system and show an understanding of it, I think that is, as with any senior game if you are a young player, I think that is the two opportunities that you have … Can you rise up to the senior game and can you still express yourself?
“It will be a good test this week.” Although there is a bevy of new faces in the matchday squad, a couple of the changes are enforced.
The injuries to fullback EW Viljoen have seen a slight reshuffle to the backline, while the absence of Roelof Smit has led to the introduction of a fresh loose-trio.
Utility back Divan Rossouw shifts from wing to the No.15 jumper to replace Viljoen, with Ngia Selengbe entering the fray from the first blast of the whistle in the No.11 jersey.
Up front, Francke Horn, the injured Smit and Marnus Schoeman make way for Ruhan Straeuli, Sibusiso Sangweni and Mark Snyman.
Only captain Reinhard Nothnagel and Nathan McBeth retain their starting positions among the forwards from when the Lions beat the Pumas some 10 days ago.
The replacements’ bench is also jam-packed with newfangled selections, with the most interesting development from within their ranks, the swap between scrumhalves Morne van den Berg and Dillon
Smit, who will start against EP as he continues his recovery to full match fitness.
The Lions also confirmed during their squad announcement that the Cheetahs’ Fred Zeilinga was training with the team after accepting a month-long offer to practice in Doornfontein, with a possibility to extend his stay if required.
It is a move to shore up the flyhalf position in case Elton Jantjies, who according to Van Rooyen remains committed to the union, becomes unavailable due to the British & Irish Lions tour later this year.