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By Athenkosi Tsotsi

Sports Reporter

Lions in the hunt for Ospreys scalp without Ntlabakanye

A win over Ospreys will help the Lions in their pursuit of a first URC playoff spot.

The Lions have brought in prop Conraad van Vuuren to replace the suspended Asenathi Ntlabakanye for their United Rugby Championship encounter against Ospreys at Swansea Stadium (5.05pm) on Saturday.

Ntlabakanye received a red card in the 15th minute last weekend when the Lions took on Irish side Connacht. They managed to negotiate their way to an impressive 38-14 away win over Connacht despite playing the majority of the game with a man less.

Three-week ban

However, things would get worse for Ntlabakanye because after a disciplinary process this week he received a three-week ban, with one week set to be taken off when he completes the World Rugby Coaching Intervention Programme.

The Ospreys clash is the first game Ntlabakanye will miss with the second being next week’s Challenge Cup last 16 tie with Benetton, and another in the same competition if the Lions make the last eight, otherwise against Leinster on April 20 in the URC.

From the side that pulled off the historic win over Connacht, only Ntlabakanye will be missing against Ospreys as Ivan van Rooyen has not tinkered with the shape of his team. The Lions have put themselves in a position where they can challenge to secure a playoff spot in the URC as they are in eighth place on the log with 34 points.

Getting into the knockout stages of the URC will be a huge deal for the Lions; it’ll be their first since moving to the competition and will result in them playing in the Champions Cup next season.

Making strides

The Lions have shown they are more than capable of winning games on their European travels and a win against Ospreys, who are in 11th place on the URC points table with 30 points, will be another indicator of the strides they have made this term.

Van Rooyen has had to manoeuvre through the season with a thin squad but he has benefitted from the group’s camaraderie. They play like a team because they have been together for a while.

The Lions must follow up last weekend’s win with a good result and they will have confidence when they square up with Ospreys.

Lions team

Quan Horn, Richard Kriel, Erich Cronje, Marius Louw (capt), Edwil van der Merwe, Jordan Hendrikse, Sanele Nohamba, Francke Horn, Emmanuel Tshituka, JC Pretorius, Reinhard Nothnagel, Etienne Oosthuizen, Conraad van Vuuren, PJ Botha, JP Smith.

Bench: Jaco Visagie, Morgan Naude, Ruan Dreyer, Darrien Landsberg, Izan Esterhuizen, Hanru Sirgel, Morne van den Berg, Stean Pienaar.

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Lions rugby team United Rugby Championship

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