MARIETTE ADAMS picks a likely Lions XV for their Vodacom Super Rugby match against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires on Sunday.
Kicking off their campaign against last season’s runners-up could be a tricky encounter for a Lions team without the manpower of previous years.
The Lions have lost the bulk of their players who steered the team to three consecutive finals in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
How this game shapes up could potentially set the trend for the rest of season. For this reason, new coach Ivan van Rooyen’s squad selection is a bit puzzling.
With the exception of prop Jannie du Plessis, he has replaced the vast majority of those who departed with younger players. It’s easy pickings in the pack, where all I believe props Dylan Smith and Carlu Sadie will resume their partnership with Pieter Jansen edging Sti Sithole for a starting berth. The experienced Du Plessis will provide cover off the bench, in the hope that the Lions don’t weaken their front row later in the game when fresh legs are required.
With only three locks making the squad, Marvin Orie and Wilhelm van der Sluys should be assured of a starting spot with rookie Ruan Vermaak covering from the bench. Hacjivah Dayimani has recovered from the injury he sustained while with the Blitzboks in Cape Town and is likely to play eighthman. Deciding on who should complete the back row alongside him is tough. Vincent Tshituka, Len Massyn and Marnus Schoeman are in contention for selection and all three played well throughout the Currie Cup and in the SuperHero Sunday friendly against the Vodacom Bulls.
The inclusion of Dayimani, though, shifts the dynamic of the loose trio. Massyn will likely move to blindside with the abrasive Schoeman getting the nod at No 6.
It gets interesting in the backline. Springboks Elton Jantjies and Courtnall Skosan pretty much pick themselves and so does Andre Warner, who represented the Bulls in three Super Rugby seasons. Morne van den Berg has come through the Lions’ age-grade ranks to earn a place in the senior squad and will serve as an understudy in his debut campaign.
Which leaves us with the back three and midfield.
The Jaguares are renowned for their lethal back play, but it’s often overlooked that their backline players are bulky and can be physical when the occasion demands it.
Dan Kriel has joined the Lions from the Stormers and Duncan Matthews from the Bulls. Both had limited game time at their previous franchises. It’s difficult to work out why Wandisile Simelane didn’t make the cut to front the Jaguares – he offers more than Matthews both in defence and attack. Matthews is small in stature, but he must be prepared to have the Jaguares centre pairing – which doubles as the Argentina midfield – run at his channel relentlessly.
Tiaan Schoeman and Tyrone Green are the only remaining outside backs and will start at fullback and right wing, respectively.
All in all, it’s not a very well-balanced back division and if the Jaguares catch a whiff of that they are going to have a field day.
Adams’ Lions – 15 Tiaan Swanepoel, 14 Tyrone Green, 13 Duncan Matthews, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Andre Warner, 8 Hacjivah Dayimani, 7 Len Massyn, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Pieter Jansen, 1 Dylan Smith.
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