Although he is taking a step back, coach Cash van Rooyen doesn’t believe he is throwing the young cubs – including new coach Mziwakhe Nkosi – to the wolves when the Lions come up against the Pumas at Ellis Park this weekend.
Nkosi will take charge of the Lions team for the preparation matches and will be assisted by Wessel Roux in the forwards.
Van Rooyen will still oversee proceedings as head coach of the Lions Rugby Company.
With regular captain Elton Jantjies taking a break, the team will be captained on Friday by lock Reinhard Nothnagel.
Fullback Tiaan Swanepoel will get a chance at flyhalf, while some of the exciting young talents at the union, including centre James Mollentze, No 8 Francke Horn, lock Emmanuel Tshituka and Baby Boks in prop Nathan McBeth and hooker PJ Botha, will also look to grab the attention.
On the bench the son of Lions CEO Rudolf Straeuli, Ruhan, has been included as flank/lock option, while Tshituka is the younger brother of flank Vincent.
There are however also seasoned stars like fullback EW Viljoen, props Jannie du Plessis and Wiehahn Herbst and flankers Roelof Smit and Marnus Schoeman in the group.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to give some game time to guys who haven’t played Super Rugby or Currie Cup and to look at some junior players,” Van Rooyen said.
“The majority of the seniors only started training again on Monday so it was too early to push them into it,” said Van Rooyen.
“This then will be an opportunity for us to give everybody game time, and get ready for the year,” he added.
Nkosi is a former SA Schools coach and a man who operated in that set-up for four-and-a-half years. He came through the Lions coaching systems.
He steered the Lions Under 21 side to the final of the national tournament in 2020 and has been an integral part of the Lions’ junior rugby structures for quite some time.
“It’s great to have coach Mziwakhe involved. He will be the head coach for this group and after the first two weeks the other regular coaches will become more involved again,” explained Van Rooyen.
Nkosi said the players picked for this Friday’s match against the Pumas were being blooded for the future.
“We are confident they will make the step up,” Nkosi said.
Lions: EW Viljoen, Prince Nkabinde, Manuel Rass, James Mollentze, Divan Rossouw, Tiaan Swanepoel, Morné van den Berg, Francke Horn, Roelof Smit, Marnus Schoeman, Reinhard Nothnagel (capt), Emmanuel Tshituka, Wiehahn Herbst, PJ Botha, Nathan McBeth. Bench: Dameon Venter, Banele Mthenjane, Jannie du Plessis, Ruhan Straeuli, MJ Pelser, Dillon Smit, Luke Rossouw, Ngia Selengbe, Ruan Dreyer, Izan Esterhuizen, Sibusiso Sangweni