The Lions have named four Springboks in their United Rugby Championship squad of 33 – namely Jaco Kriel, Jannie du Plessis, Ruan Dreyer and Jamba Ulengo.
Wandisile Simelane is also in the squad and the closest of all the Lions players to featuring for the Springboks at the moment.
The Lions take on Italian side Zebre in their first game in the Europe-based competition on Heritage Day, 24 September. They’ll also face Scarlets, Glasgow Warriors and Ulster.
Ivan van Rooyen and the Joburg-based team are no longer able to call on several Boks who have opted to move on and play their rugby elsewhere. Here one thinks of Elton Jantjies, Kwagga Smith, Marvin Orie, Courtnall Skosan, Andries Coetzee, and a few others like Dylan Smith, who has also left Joburg in recent months.
The Lions though would have a far stronger look about them were the likes of Willem Alberts (hamstring) and Ross Cronje (ankle) fit but they are both nursing injuries and won’t feature for the former three-time Super Rugby runners-up any time soon.
Exciting flyhalf Gianni Lombard, who has had to deal with ankle injuries in recent times, also won’t tour, but will play a part in the campaign once he’s fully fit.
Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen said he felt his side had what would be required to take on the best in Europe in the first four weeks of action.
“We’re pretty excited about this group,” said Van Rooyen.
“As a coaching unit we’ve been fortunate enough to have time to discuss and plan how we want to approach the URC. This was coupled with a few on-field sessions before settling on a final 33.
“We expect conditions to be challenging up north but at the same time looking forward to competing and establishing ourselves as the competition progresses.”
Lions URC Touring Squad
PJ Botha, Morne Brandon, Ruan Dreyer, Jannie Du Plessis, Francke Horn, Pieter Jansen van Vuren, Jaco Kriel, Morgan Naude, Reinhard Nothnagel, Asenathi Ntlabakanye, Carlu Sadie, Sibusiso Sangweni, Ruben Schoeman, Sti Sithole, Ruhan Straeuli, Emmanuel Tshituka, Vincent Tshituka, Wilhelm van der Sluys and Jaco Visagie.
Eddie Fouche, Jordan Hendrikse, Sibahle ‘Rabz’ Maxwane, Matt More, Burger Odendaal, Stean Pienaar, Manuel Rass, Divan Rossouw, Wandisile Simelane, Ginter Smuts, Jamba Ulengo, Morne van den Berg, EW Viljoen and Andre Warner.
Lions tour fixtures
24 September- Zebre vs Lions (Parma)
1 October- Scarlets vs Lions (Llanelli)
9 October- Glasgow Warriors vs Emirates Lions (Glasgow)
15 October- Ulster vs Lions (Belfast)