Chance for new Lions to shine
Lionel Cronjé (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Several new recruits will get their chance to shine when the Lions kick off their season with a home game against Russia this weekend.
The Johannesburg side, axed from Super Rugby at the expense of the Southern Kings, will kick-start the new Lions Challenge series at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The Golden Lions Rugby Union organised matches against international teams like the Russians and Samoa, a three-week tour of North America, five games against top French opposition, and fixtures against all five South African Super Rugby teams.
The series of games ends on July 20, with Lions supporters having 12 matches, including a Super Rugby promotion/relegation game on August 3, to look forward to at Ellis Park.
According to the Beeld website
, two new flyhalves, Lionel Cronjé - who joined from the Bulls
- and Marnitz Boshoff, will make their debuts against Russia on Saturday, as they fill the void left by the departure of Elton Jantjies
(on loan to the Stormers) and Butch James
Two new locks will also get their chance, with Varsity Cup stars Franco Mostert (Tuks) and Hugo Kloppers (Maties) set for their debuts. The duo has some big shoes to fill, after Franco Van der Merwe (Sharks), Michael Rhodes, Ruan Botha (both WP), Paul Willemse (Bulls) and Ettienne Oosthuizen (Brumbies) sought greener pastures, while another lock, Wikus van Heerden, retired at the end of last season.
Former Maties centre Stokkies Hanekom is also set to get his first chance, while CJ van der Linde, (prop) Deon van Rensburg (wing), Dylan des Fountain (centre) and Whestley Moolman (scrumhalf) will be unavailable due to injury niggles.Lions' fixture list for 2013 (which includes Lions Challenge matches and excludes Currie Cup games):
January 19: Lions v Russia - Ellis Park
January 23: Lions v Cheetahs - Ellis Park
February 2: Lions v Bulls - Orlando Stadium, Soweto
February 9: Lions v Kings - Ellis Park
February 23: Namibia v Lions - Windhoek
March 16: Lions v Mont de Marsan - Ellis Park
April 13: US Invitational v Lions - Ervine, California
April 20: US Invitational v Lions - Vancouver, Canada
April 27: Chicago Lions v Lions - Chicago
May 11: Lions v Agen - Ellis Park
June 1: Lions v Samoa - Ellis Park
June 8: Lions v French Barbarians - Ellis Park
June 15: Lions v Stormers - Ellis Park
June 21: Lions v Sharks - Ellis Park
July 12: Lions v Montpellier - Ellis Park
July 20: Lions v Grenoble - Ellis Park
July 27: Super Rugby promotion/relegation first leg - TBA
August 3: Super Rugby promotion/relegation - Ellis Park