Home Sport These Lions are ready to roar in Rainbow Cup

These Lions are ready to roar in Rainbow Cup


The Lions get their Rainbow Cup under way against the Bulls. Morgan Bolton looks at three players to watch from the Joburg-based team who could set the tournament alight in the coming weeks.

FILE – Willem Alberts of Golden Lions jumping for the ball in the line out during the Carling Currie Cup. Photo: Frikkie Kapp/Gallo Images via BackpagePix

JOHANNEBSURG – The Lions start their Rainbow Cup SA campaign against the Bulls this weekend at Loftus Versfeld.

Here we look at three players to watch from the Joburg-based team who could set the tournament alight in the coming weeks.

Tiaan Swanepoel

Picture: Samuel Shivambu, BackpagePix

Until early 2020, Swanepoel was doing odd jobs in Australia, playing club rugby and without a professional contract.

How quickly his fortunes have changed since making his debut last year for the Lions against the Jaguares …

The 24-year-old will have a much larger and more important role to fulfil in the coming weeks, whether it be at fullback or flyhalf, especially now that Elton Jantjies will not be playing for the Lions for at least the next three weeks.

It is not yet clear where he will play. Swanepoel played a lot of his junior rugby at pivot, and was used mostly at No 15 last season.

He will compete against former Cheetahs man Fred Zeilinga for the No 10 jersey, and EW Viljoen and Divan Russouw for the latter.

He has a booming boot, this we all know, and has some toe to him as well, so it is now just a matter of stringing it together with an attacking game that will unlock opposition defences, either at 10 or from the back of the line.

Morné van den Berg

Picture: Ryan Wilkisky, BackpagePix

“Krappie” is not a a shoo-in as the Lions’ starting scrumhalf, or even as a replacement, such is the quality of No 9s the Lions possess, but make no mistake, when he does play, things tend to happen.

Last season, when the mood took him, he was a terrier behind the Lions pack. His service at the base of the set-piece was frenetic at times but he injected speed and pace to the breakdown and whenever he got his hands on the ball.

He wasn’t always 100% accurate, and his box-kicking needs some work, but he created opportunities nevertheless.

Through his performances, Van den Berg drew comparisons to Springbok Faf de Klerk, and if he gets the game time and keeps on developing, there is no reason to not believe he cannot reach the similar heights as the World Cup winning scrumhalf. He is only 23 years old, so the road to a more complete player is wide open, which is an exciting prospect for player, coach and supporters.

Willem Alberts

Picture: @LionsRugbyCo/Twitter

Now in the twilight of his career, the “Bone Collector” remains as important as ever.

The soon-to-be 37-year-old will carry the weight of responsibility of the Lions’ forward pack, especially now that lock Marvin Orie is no longer around.

Alberts will be expected to make bruising tackles and impose himself when running at the opposition defence. His work at line-out time will also now take on that added pressure.

He will be the oldest of the forwards, but then the Lions’ pack is full of youngsters, especially among the loosies, who can be all under 23 years of age depending on the selection.

Whoever Alberts is paired with in the second row – either Reinhard Nothnagel, 23, or Wilhelm van der Sluys, 29, or even 20-year-old Emmanuel Tshituka, they will know they have an experienced 43-Test veteran to call on when the going gets tough. And tough it will get against the monstrous packs of the Bulls, Stormers and to a lesser extent, the Sharks.

Managing Alberts will therefore be of the utmost importance to the team’s ambitions during this tournament.

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