New recruit Edwill van der Merwe is set to make his debut for the Johannesburg side when the Lions take on Cardiff Rugby on Sunday in Round 6 of the United Rugby Championship at Ellis Park.
Coach Ivan van Rooyen has selected a strong match-day 23 which also sees the return of Willem Alberts and Tiaan Swanepoel from long term injuries.
“It’s good to be back home. We’ve put in solid training sessions on and off the field over the past three weeks and the guys are looking in great shape and quite excited to play at home,” said Van Rooyen on Thursday.
“Our focus this weekend is to achieve a positive result by executing on the plans we have set out for ourselves as a squad and most importantly improving on the gains we achieved overseas is certain areas.”
Wing Van der Merwe joined the Lions from the Stormers during the international break.
Van Rooyen was happy with the progress of injured squad members upon the team’s return from the UK.
“We are extremely pleased to have a majority fit squad to select from for our first home fixture.
“Willem and Tiaan missed out on the first four games of our northern hemisphere campaign, so they’ll be raring to go should they get an opportunity,” explained Van Rooyen.
Other changes see Fred Zeilinga assume the number 10 position with Matt More coming in as backline cover.
With a maximum of 2,000 fans allowed back at rugby stadiums in South Africa, Van Rooyen believes this will boost his team.
“The fact that we’ll have a few fans back is a bonus. It may not be a large amount, but it goes a very long way in creating an atmosphere at the stadium and serves as added motivation for the players.”
Lions: EW Viljoen, Edwill van der Merwe, Wandisile Simelane, Burger Odendaal (capt), Rabz Maxwane, Fred Zeilinga, Andre Warner, Francke Horn, Vincent Tshituka, Jaco Kriel, Reinhard Nothnagel, Ruben Schoeman, Carlu Sadie, Jaco Visagie, Sti Sithole
Bench: PJ Botha, Morgan Naude, Ruan Dreyer, Willem Alberts, Ruhan Straeuli, Morne van den Berg, Matt More, Tiaan Swanepoel.