After the year-long absence, the Lions already have to deal with an alarming injury list – with six players who might not feature in the warm-up games and might even miss the opener against the Cheetahs.
These include prop Ruan Dreyer (shoulder), fullback Ruan Combrinck (ankle), centre Dylan des Fountain (knee), flyhalf Elton Jantjies (shoulder), wing Anthony Volmink (shoulder) and wing Deon van Rensburg (leg).
“These are experienced players,” said Lions head coach Johan Ackermann.
“But they are unfortunately in doubt for the opening round,” Ackermann said. He added that the energy and enthusiasm showed at the training sessions have been encouraging, though.
Ackermann confirmed the Lions have lined up three warm-up matches before their challenging opener in Bloemfontein against the Cheetahs on February 15.
Next Friday they host the Leopards at Ellis Park with two teams. And on February 1 they travel to Port Elizabeth to face the Kings, while their final warm-up game is scheduled against the Sharks at Ellis Park on February 7.
Ackermann will enjoy his first full Super Rugby stint as head coach after taking over from John Mitchell during the latter stages of the 2012 campaign. He also announced he will have a new captain in No 8 Warren Whiteley.
The last captain to lead the Lions in Super Rugby, flank Josh Strauss, has departed for Scotland, while Whiteley, last year’s victorious Vodacom Cup skipper, takes over from flank Derick Minnie who led the side in last year’s Currie Cup ending with a 33-16 semifinal loss against WP.
The Lions will announce their final squad on January 30 and also reveal their new jersey.