In naming No 8 Warren Whiteley to lead the side, coach Johan Ackermann has recalled all his players who were rested last weekend against the Sharks for their first Super Rugby game since they lost to the Bulls at Loftus 37-20 in July 2012.
Players earning their first caps are fullback Chrysander Botha, flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff, lock Franco Mostert, prop Julian Redelinghuys, hooker Robbie Coetzee and prop Schalk van der Merwe.
All the players, bar Van der Merwe, a former Cheetah, have however been in the Lion systems for some time, while three Pumas on loan, former Bulls centre Stefan Watermeyer in the starting team, and on the bench, scrumhalf Faf de Klerk and fullback Coenie van Wyk could make their Lions debuts.
Van Wyk will also cover flyhalf while Botha and leftwing Ruan Combrinck, an established fullback, would be able to switch positions at any given time.
Ackermann was in high spirits ahead of the Lions return to Super Rugby, and has put last week’s big loss to the Sharks down to giving a few guys playing time who were on the verge of the squad, while resting the majority of his bigger names.
“I think the Cheetahs wouldn’t exactly know what to expect from us, even though they might have followed our progress last year,” said Ackermann.
“I’ve always said some of the established players only need to play one warm-up game and maybe parts of a second, we know what we have in them,” said Ackermann.
No recognised lock was named on the Lions bench, with loose forward Willie Britz acting as back-up, while last year’s first-choice tighthead Ruan Dreyer returns after recovering from a shoulder injury.