A young Lions team faces a daunting task of taking on a relatively experienced Western Province side in their Currie Cup opener at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday (kickoff 5pm).
The Lions have completely split their duties, with a full squad focusing on the United Rugby Championship while a squad full of young players from the junior division will be in action during the Currie Cup competition.
“Each union has chosen a model that works for them. For us the URC is the premier team of the franchise, so we believe that the split is important in making sure we can focus fully on the two competitions,” explained Lions coach Mziwakhe Nkosi.
“We felt like the split will allow us to give the youngsters in the Currie Cup group the focus they deserve, while also making the team a tighter unit.
“We have no doubt that we will come up against some serious teams, but these young guys have really good pedigree. A few of them have tasted what it’s like to play first class rugby, so our goal is to give them more exposure and hopefully they can do something special in the Currie Cup.”
Twenty-two year old prop Asenathi Ntlabakanye, one of the more experienced players in the side, having had a taste of URC rugby, will try to guide his young chargers in what is set to be a tough competition.
“We believe in ourselves and our abilities as a team, we just have to go out there and express ourselves,” said Ntlabakanye
“The guys are very happy to get some game time and they will build some confidence along the way. We are going to face some big guns and there are a lot of challenges ahead of us, but the guys really believe in themselves, we know what we are capable of and we are very excited for the campaign.”
A very exciting loose trio battle is on the cards for the match, with Western Province boasting Nama Xaba, Simon Muller and Hacjivah Dayimani as their back trio, while the Lions have backed Emmanuel Tshituka, Jarod Cairns and Mark Snyman.
“The loose forward battle promises to be a tantalising one. These are some of the best up and coming loose forwards in SA rugby and a big part of the game will be dictated by how well either loose trio fares,” claimed Nkosi.
Also on Saturday the Cheetahs take on the Griquas at the Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein (kickoff 2:30pm).
It is set to be a massive derby encounter with the two neighbours always eager to get one over the other, while the Cheetahs will hope to make home ground advantage count and get their campaign off to a solid start.