Mziwakhe Nkosi has been handed the reins of the Lions in the series of preparation matches‚ or Franchise Cup‚ due to start this weekend.
He will be in the hot seat when the Lions kick-off their campaign on Friday against the Pumas at Ellis Park‚ while regular coach Ivan van Rooyen will oversee proceedings as head coach of the Lions Rugby Company.
Nkosi‚ a stalwart in the Lions’ coaching set-up, is also a former SA Schools coach who operated for four-and-a-half years in that set-up. Nkosi, who steered the Lions U-21 side to the final of the national tournament last year, will have former Springbok prop Wessel Roux as assistant.
The Lions, captained by lock Reinhard Nothnagel on Friday, have placed the accent on youth in the warm up matches. Tiaan Swanepoel‚ a regular at fullback in the most recent Currie Cup, is at flyhalf. He will be partnered by Morne van den Berg.
With Swanepoel operating at flyhalf EW Viljoen gets a start at fullback‚ while regular fullback Divan Rossouw is on the left wing.
On their extended bench the Lions have included former Maties flank Ruhan Straeuli. Straeuli is the son of Lions company chief executive Rudolf Straeuli who represented the Springboks in the 1995 rugby World Cup.
Also on the bench is scrumhalf Dillon Smit who missed a large chunk of last season due to injury.
The Lions have announced contract extensions for Nothnagel‚ Swanepoel and prop Sti Sithole. Sithole has extended for two years‚ while Swanepoel and Nothnagel both extended for three years.
Lions team to play the Pumas – EW Viljoen; Prince Nkabinde‚ Manuel Rass‚ James Mollentze‚ Divan Rossouw; Tiaan Swanepoel‚ Morné van den Berg; Francke Horn‚ Roelof Smit‚ Marnus Schoeman; Reinhard Nothnagel (captain)‚ Emmanuel Tshituka; Wiehahn Herbst‚ PJ Botha‚ Nathan McBeth. Substitutes: Dameon Venter‚ Banele Mthenjane‚ Jannie du Plessis‚ Ruhan Straeuli‚ MJ Pelser‚ Dillon Smit‚ Luke Rossouw‚ Ngia Selengbe‚ Ruan Dreyer‚ Izan Esterhuizen‚ Sibusiso Sangweni.