Jaco Kriel will start at openside flank for the Lions against Zebre in their first-ever Vodacom United Rugby Championship match in Parma on Friday night.
The Lions will kick off the new chapter of South African rugby in Europe with a clash against Italian side Zebre in Parma and coach Ivan van Rooyen has named a strong lineup for the clash.
In the pack, Kriel makes his long-awaited return from injury in the loose trio which also features Vincent Tshituka at blindside and Francke Horn at No 8.
Pieter Jansen Van Vuren and Ruben Schoeman are the starting locks with proprs Carlu Sadie and Ruan Dreyer completing the front row alongside hooker Jaco Visagie.
The backline is laden with talented players with EW Viljoen, Jamba Ulengo and Rabz Maxwane forming the back three, Wandisile Simelane and Burger Odendaal teaming up in midfield and Jordan Hendrikse and Andre Warner forming the halfback-axis.
Van Rooyen has opted for the traditional five-three split on the bench, with front rowers PJ Botha, Sti Sithole, Asenathi Ntlabakanye, Reinhard Nothnagel and Sibusiso Sangweni and backs Morne van den Berg, Eddie Fouche and Divan Rossouw providing cover off the wood.
Commenting on his selections, Van Rooyen said: “It’s an exciting new chapter for the Emirates Lions and we are really looking forward to our first match tomorrow against Zebre.”
“The URC will test our character as a group but it’s a challenge we are up for. We believe the match-23 we’ve decided upon will be competitive on the day and hopefully establish some momentum going into the next few weeks of the tournament,” concluded van Rooyen.
Lions – 15 EW Viljoen,14 Jamba Ulengo,13 Wandisile Simelane,12 Burger Odendaal (c),11 Rabz Maxwane ,10 Jordan Hendrikse, 9 Andre Warner, 8 Francke Horn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Pieter Jansen Van Vuren, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Ruan Dreyer.
Subs: 16 PJ Botha, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Sibusiso Sangweni, 21 Morne van den Berg, 22 Eddie Fouche, 23 Divan Rossouw.
Photo: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix