It’s time for the Springbok players to emerge once again when the Lions host the Sharks at Ellis Park in the Preparation Series on Saturday.
Both teams have bolstered their squads with the return of some big-name players after the younger brigade was exposed in the first two rounds of the series.
Two Boks will return as opposing captains, with flyhalf Elton Jantjies set to direct the Lions and centre Lukhanyo Am taking the Sharks armband back from centre Jeremy Ward.
The duel in midfield between Am and Lions star Wandisile Simelane could also be one of the main features of the game, which starts at 4.15pm.
Even though the Lions won their opening two matches in this series, they were stop-start events, beating the Pumas 32-28 and the EP Elephants 54-24.
The Sharks opened their campaign with a convincing 35-10 victory over Griquas, but then came unstuck in a 39-38 defeat to the Cheetahs in their second game in Bloemfontein.
While Bok captain Siya Kolisi is still on conditioning “leave”, Sharks coach Sean Everitt has loaded his bench with experience in the form of Bok prop Thomas du Toit, flyhalf Curwin Bosch and hooker Dylan Richardson.
Richardson has been moved back from flank and the Sharks have bolstered their bench in order to counter the altitude factor and tempo of the Lions in the last 20 minutes.
Lions coach Cash van Rooyen stressed this week that he was in two minds about whether to bring his seniors back only next week against the Stormers, but he decided his star players needed game time ahead of the Rainbow Cup after they were inactive due to a conditioning period since the Currie Cup playoffs.
He has, however, retained two youngsters – wing Ngia Selengbe and No 8 and former Baby Bok star Francke Horn – who impressed in their previous two games.
Lock Wilhelm van der Sluys has been tasked with filling the vacancy left by Marvin Orie and he is set to receive a stern test from Le Roux Roets and Reniel Hugo.
Roets is a former Pumas player who was on loan in the past but has now cemented a permanent deal with the Sharks, while Hugo is a former Cheetahs player and the son of former Bok lock Neil Hugo.
If there’s one area where the Lions will be keen to make an impact it will be at scrum time, and here former Bok prop Ruan Dreyer is back at loosehead after having been tried at tighthead for the last few seasons.