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Out on a limb

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Lions boss keen to see what fruit his "New Branches" will deliver

SPEEDING BULLET: Former SA Under-20 speedster Wandisile Simelane will bolster the ranks of the Lions this weekend when a rejigged team will face the Jaguares at Ellis Park.

LIONS boss Swys de Bruin made it quite clear yesterday that there is no place for out-of-form players in his team by summarily dropping several seasoned operators for Saturday’s Super Rugby clash against the Jaguares at Ellis Park. The match kicks off at 3.05pm.

Springboks Ruan Combrinck, Lionel Mapoe, Aphiwe Dyantyi (though he is said to be carrying an injury), rising star and loose-forward Hacjivah Dayimani, and seasoned No 9 Nic Groom, were all left out of the Lions team.

“It’s easy to say the changes are rotational, but it’s a fact certain players lose form, which then gives one a chance to pick others,” said De Bruin about bringing in some young stars.

“I said at the start of the season, that it doesn’t matter if you’re Jantjies, Whiteley, Mapoe or Marx the jersey belongs to a bigger union than yourself, and I include myself in that,” said the Lions coach. “You’ve got to be the best to earn that jersey every Saturday, and that’s something that will stay that way for as long as I am here. There is definitely no place for passengers in our team.”

Into the Lions fold come exciting former SA Under-20 stars like centre Wandisile Simelane, prop Nathan McBeth, lock Ruan Vermaak, and outside back Tyrone Green. Bright prospects, loose-forwards Vincent Tshituka and James Venter, and on-loan player from the Bulls, centre Franco Naude will also get a look-in.

Flyhalf Gianni Lombard is also back in the side, on the bench, along with other players who’re not older than 22, lock Rhyno Herbst and back-up hooker Pieter Jansen.

The good news is De Bruin has also been able to pick some experienced men in his starting team – wing Sylvian Mahuza and scrumhalf Ross Cronjé.

The Lions boss compared the juniors coming into the team to a new, growing tree.

“As 19-year-olds they think they’re ready, they’re excited, but now they’ll feel part of the system,” said De Bruin about handing an opportunity to the former Under-20 stars.

“I like to compare the youngsters to a tree with new branches coming out, and wondering what fruit those branches are going to deliver. Now we need to see if there are storms, can those branches (the players) handle the storms, the hail, and the wind?

“It’s why I love this game; it’s not always sunshine. Sometimes a rough sea is a good thing.

“We’ve been playing some of the youngsters from off the bench, but we have to test them at some stage because when is the right time, what is the perfect time (to blood the younger guys)?”

Saturday may provide some answers.

Lions (15-1): Andries Coetzee, Sylvian Mahuza, Wandisile Simelane, Franco Naude, Courtnall Skosan, Elton Jantjies, Ross Cronje, Kwagga Smith, Vincent Tshituka, Marnus Schoeman, Rhyno Herbst, Ruan Vermaak, Carlu Sadie, Malcolm Marx (capt), Dylan Smith. Bench: Pieter Jansen, Nathan McBeth, Frans van Wyk, Stephan Lewies, James Venter, Dillon Smit, Harold Vorster, Gianni Lombard/Tyrone Green