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Watch out Griquas – the new Lions coach was ‘moulded’ by Mitchell, Ackermann and De Bruin

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“I am new to coaching, but I’m definitely not new to the system here at the Lions"

Swys de Bruin (left) coach of Lions with his assistant Ivan Cash van Rooyen (right) during the Lions Training on 17 July 2018 at Johannesburg Stadium.

New Golden Lions head coach Ivan “Cash” van Rooyen admits he doesn’t have an impressive coaching CV, but being part of a successful management team has given him enough insight to lead the squad through this year’s Currie Cup campaign.

Van Rooyen (pictured), a specialist strength and conditioning coach who has been part of the Lions franchise since 2009, will head the coaching team over the next few months while regular boss Swys de Bruin fulfils his commitments as national attack consultant. The 37-year-old Van Rooyen will be backed up by Super Rugby assistants Philip Lemmer, Joey Mongalo and Neil de Bruin.

“I’m not here to reinvent the wheel,” said Van Rooyen yesterday when he named his team to take on the Tafel Lager Griquas in their Currie Cup opener at Ellis Park on Friday night. “I am new to coaching, but I’m definitely not new to the system here at the Lions. I’ve been deeply involved in the system for years and been a part of the planning sessions … all the coaches have always been involved.

“We’ve still got Swys around and the other coaches are also still here. For me it’s more about managing the system rather than being a coach. And, look at a guy like (Bok defence guru) Jacques Nienaber, who started out as a physio, and then did strength and conditioning, and now I rate him as the best defence coach in the world.”

Van Rooyen has worked under former coaches John Mitchell, Johan Ackermann and most recently De Bruin. “I’ve kind of been moulded in the last nine years by working under those guys … I want to help take this team forward, play the rugby we’re known for. I’m privileged to have been given this opportunity, to work with some great young talent. It’s going to be an exciting few weeks and we’re all keen to grow in all departments.”

The Lions will bank on a number of current and former Under-20 stars in the Currie Cup campaign, with the likes of Tyrone Green, Wandisile Simelane, PJ Steenkamp, Len Massyn, Hacjivah Dayimani, Jan-Louis la Grange, HP van Schoor, Manni Rass and Vincent Tshituka all getting an opportunity this weekend already.

“It’s going to be important to test players and the youngsters in the week and in the game,” said Van Rooyen. “We want to see (over the next few weeks) who is good enough to play Super Rugby next year.

“I’m excited about the youngsters, to see what they can do … we’ll rotate them throughout the next few weeks, but they’ll all get starts somewhere. The bigger picture is to grow our depth, to ensure we take the Lions forward and that’s a box we want to tick in the Currie Cup.”

Experienced scrumhalf Ross Cronjé will lead the side this week, having been released by the Springboks squad and he’ll be backed up by lock Marvin Orie, who also didn’t travel to Argentina. The other seniors who’ll be required to give plenty of guidance on Friday are Andries Coetzee, Courtnall Skosan, Sylvian Mahuza and Corné Fourie.

Van Rooyen said the players were excited about playing some rugby again, after having a few weeks off. “The juniors have come in and added a lot of energy to the squad, lifted it up again. It’s a new opportunity for everyone again, to show what they can do.

“A year ago Aphiwe Dyantyi was starting out in the Currie Cup and now he’s a Bok and was man of the match last weekend,” said Van Rooyen.