Influential skipper Burger Odendaal has been ruled out of the Lions’ clash against Edinburgh at Ellis Park on Saturday in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship.
Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen has made three changes to his starting XV, two forced by a “close contacts” protocol related to Louw and Jaco Visagie. Hooker PJ Botha and centre Manuel Rass come in for Visagie and Odendaal respectively
Also, JP Smith comes in for regular loosehead prop Sti Sithole, who has been rested after a series of matches in the competition, while 2021 Junior Springbok Player of the Year, Henco van Wyk, is in line to make his URC debut off the bench.
“Jaco and Burger were close contacts earlier in the week, so Covid protocols mean they needed to be away from the team to mitigate risk. They will be assessed on Monday next week,” Van Rooyen said.
Speaking on Smith’s inclusion, the Lions mentor says the loosehead has been rewarded for great performances across all competitions. “JP has impressed us in both the Carling Currie Cup as well as stints in the URC, so we are eager to see what he can offer us from minute one,” said Van Rooyen.
The Lions, led by lock Reinhard Nothnagel, will look to continue their positive string of results against northern hemisphere opposition, following recent wins against Cardiff, Munster and Ospreys.
Van Rooyen, though, cautioned against taking the foot off the pedal, especially against an Edinburgh side that recorded a good win against the Sharks in Durban.
“Edinburgh were successful last week, so they might fancy their chances up here,” the coach said. “Likewise, we’ve had a string of positive results in recent weeks which has certainly motivated us to improve on our performances as the tournament progresses.”
Lions – 15 Quan Horn, 14 Rabz Maxwane, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Manuel Rass, 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Jordan Hendrikse, 9 Morne van den Berg, 8 Emmanuel Tshituka, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Francke Horn, 5 Reinhard Nothnagel (c), 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 PJ Botha, 1 JP Smith.
Subs: 16 Morne Brandon, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 19 Ruan Venter, 20 Sibusiso Sangweni, 21 Andre Warner, 22 Henco van Wyk, 23 Tiaan Swanepoel.