Port Elizabeth - Southern Kings pivot, Lionel Cronje, who has been vice-captain of the side from the start of the campaign, will take charge as captain of the side in the absence of season captain, Schalk Ferreira against the Lions at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday (15:05 kick-off).
Ferreira sustained a bicep injury last weekend against the Sharks and underwent surgery on Tuesday, ruling the loosehead prop out of action for the next three months.
Head coach Deon Davids made the announcement at his team announcement press conference on Thursday.
"I’ve chosen Lionel for this game as captain. As I said to him and the rest of the team, I will do some stock taking after this game," said Davids.
"Lionel has been around a long time and he understands what is expected of him in Super Rugby. He has been a central part of our leadership group until now.
"From a performance point of view, he has also played some good rugby. It’s a good opportunity for him. It is a natural thing, as vice-captain, to take this position."
The new Southern Kings captain, who will lead the side for the first time, expressed his excitement at being given the responsibility as well as the team’s disappointment at the loss of Ferreira.
"It is an honour and privilege to be given the opportunity to lead such a great team," Cronje said about his appointment.
"The circumstances, however, given the loss of a quality leader like Schalk, are not ideal. We are privileged to have a group of leaders in the team; therefore the responsibility of playing a leading role does not lie solely with me.
"I look forward to leading the team with our leadership group. We also wish Schalk the best in his recovery."
Davids has made three changes to his starting XV that narrowly went down 17-19 to the Sharks last weekend.
The injury to Ferreira has given an opportunity for a starting berth for the experienced Schalk van der Merwe at loosehead prop.
Hooker Kurt Haupt will also get an opportunity to start this week ahead of Michael Willemse, who started in the No2 jersey in the past four matches.
Malcolm Jaer makes a return to the team, this week starting at fullback as Masixole Banda is given a break this weekend.
Martin Bezuidenhout, who has been bracketed on the bench, alongside Willemse, as backup at hooker, will make his 50th Super Rugby appearance should he make it onto the field on Saturday.
The head coach is expecting a challenging encounter.
"We need to step up because we are playing one of the best sides in the competition this weekend. The Lions are a very talented side, no matter who they field, and they play the game at a massively high tempo," Davids said.
"We need to be right up there, we need to be switched on from the start. This is a game that we need to take to them. We will give it everything."
Following the confidence-boosting performance last weekend, Davids reiterated the self-belief in the team.
"There is a lot of self-belief in the team. We did believe from the start that we can compete. We want to be competitive, and we will strive to continuously improve," he said.
15. Malcolm Jaer, 14. Makazole Mapimpi, 13. Berton Klaasen, 12. Waylon Murray, 11. Alshaun Bock, 10. Lionel Cronje (captain), 9. Louis Schreuder, 8. Ruaan Lerm, 7. Andisa Ntsila, 6. Chris Cloete, 5. Wilhelm van der Sluys, 4. Irne Herbst, 3. Ross Geldenhuys, 2. Kurt Haupt, 1. Schalk van der Merwe
Substitutes: 16. Michael Willemse, 17. Chris Heiberg, 18. Justin Forwood, 19. Tyler Paul, 20. Stefan Willemse, 21. Johan Steyn, 22. Pieter-Steyn de Wet, 23. Luzuko Vulindlu
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Harold Vorster, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen
Substitutes: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Sti Sitole, 18 Hencus van Wyk, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Jacques Nel, 23 Sylvian Mahuza