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Lions virtually unchanged for URC fixture against Stormers in Mother City

FILE - Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen. Photo: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)

FILE - Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen. Photo: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Dec 2, 2021


Johannesburg — Whip out the clapperboard, scribble in scene United Rugby Championship (URC); Take: 2; Roll: Stormers v Lions and; date Saturday (kick-off 5pm), as a frustrating fortnight and 2021 for domestic rugby comes to a potential exciting close this weekend.

The Lions will travel to Cape Town with a virtually unchanged side which was selected for the abandoned encounter against Cardiff Rugby this past weekend, making only one change to the side selected for that match. Springbok Ruan Dreyer drops out of the matchday 23, replaced by another Springbok prop, Jannie du Plessis, who returns from his family responsibility leave.

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It will also be take two for Edwill van der Merwe, who was supposed to make his debut for the Joburgers this past Sunday, but will now have the opportunity to earn his first cap for the Lions against his former team.

Despite the familiar opposition, the wing — flanked by the Lions backline, attack and skills coach Ricardo Laubscher at Thursday's team announcement — confidently revealed that his main resolve will be to get his career at the union off to a belter of a start.

“It will be my first game for the Lions,” said Van der Merwe, “so I am more focused on putting in a good performance for my team. Obviously, it is a bit of a weird situation – one week I was playing for the Stormers, the next I find myself in a new jersey.

“I helped where I could,” the 25-year-old explained, regarding any trade secrets he has revealed about his old team to his new one, “but obviously coach Ricardo has done his own research and plans on how we should play.

“I gave a little bit of insight but we have been mostly focusing on ourselves and how we want to play and doing what we need to do to get a positive result on the weekend.”

There can be no doubt that the stop-start nature of the URC, especially after the postponement of last weekend’s matches against European opposition, has been hugely taxing for supporters, pundits and stakeholders alike.

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Laubscher, however, revealed that the Lions’ players remained in a positive frame of mind, despite these set-backs, and are champing at the bit to take the field against their hosts this weekend.

Said Laubscher: “The last three, four weeks, have been brilliant for us.

“It was nice to have a break and to start from zero again in our preparations,” he continued. “In terms of mental fatigue, what I’ve seen on (Thursday) and the last three to four weeks paints its own picture.

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“It was disappointing not to get game time last week, but if I look at the energy (Thursday), there is a buzz and we can’t wait to get out on the field to give us a measurement as to where we are as a team and in terms of our growth.”

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It was a sentiment also expressed by Van der Merwe, who reiterated: “We are very excited for this weekend’s game. We’ve had a good four weeks to prepare. Obviously, we were disappointed not to play last week but we have shifted our mindset to the Stormers.”

Emirates Lions starting XV: EW Viljoen; Edwill van der Merwe, Wandisile Simelane, Burger Odendaal, Rabz Maxwane; Fred Zeilinga, Andre Warner; Franke Horn, Vincent Tshituka, Jaco Kriel; reinhard Nothnagel, Ruben Schoeman; Carlu Sadie, Jaco Visagie, Sti Sithole;

Replacements: PJ Botha, Morgan Naude, Jannie du Plessis, Willem Alberts, Ruhan Straeuli, Morne van den Berg, Matt More, Tiaan Swanepoel


IOL Sport