The Lions, having abandoned their much-vaunted “Challenge Series” against the best that the European and American Blind School could produce, have thrown all their weight behind winning the Vodacom Cup this season and head coach Johan Ackermann will thus be in charge of a strong side as they seek a victory in Friday’s quarter-final, against the Sharks XV at Kings Park.
Benefiting from a lack of quality opposition in the North Section, the Lions (who started the competition with a club selection) have managed to make up enough ground over the last few weeks to sneak into the play-offs, thanks to a good win over the Pumas and a rout of the useless Limpopo Blue Bulls. The Sharks XV, on the other hand, have had to fight tooth and nail for their first-place log finish against strong opposition week in and week out, so it remains to be seen whether their improved cohesion and “battle hardiness” will be enough to get one over a Lions team that’s probably a little stronger on paper.
Ackermann is, of course, without a slew of big names, having lost many men to Super Rugby loan deals and yet more to injury, but has been able to strengthen the side that played in Limpopo considerably, bringing in the likes of behemoth lock Hendrik Roodt, scrumhalf Mike Bondesio and centres Alwyn Hollenbach and Deon van Rensburg. Former Sharks XV stalwart Warren Whiteley captains the side from number 8.
Lions: Chrysander Botha, Deon Helberg, Deon van Rensburg, Alwyn Hollenbach, Anthony Volmink, Marnitz Boshoff, Michael Bondesio, Warren Whiteley (capt), Warwick Tecklenburg, Jaco Kriel, Hugo Kloppers, Hendrik Roodt, Julian Redelinghuys, Robbie Coetzee, Ruan Dreyer.
Subs: Swys du Toit, Jacques van Rooyen, JJ Breet, Willie Britz, Ross Cronjé, Lionel Cronjé, Dylan des Fountain.