Team Preview: The Lions

Getty Images     02 Feb 2018     Getty Images

Home: Emirates Airlines Park, Johannesburg.
Last season: Losing finalist.

Jacobie Adriaanse, Cyle Brink, Robbie Coetzee, Andries Coetzee, Ruan Combrinck, Ross Cronjé, Ashlon Davids, Hacjivah Dayimani, Ruan Dreyer, Aphiwe Dyanti, Willie Engelbrecht, Lourens Erasmus, Andries Ferreira, Corne Fourie, Rhyno Herbst, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Marco Jansen van Vuren, Elton Jantjies, Johannes Jonker, Jaco Kriel, Robert Kruger, Sylvian Mahuza, Lionel Mapoe, Malcolm Marx, Len Massyn, Christiaan Meyer, Howard Mnisi, Franco Mostert, Marvin Orie, Shaun Reynolds, Marnus Schoeman, Sti Sithole, Courtnall Skosan, Dillon Smith, Kwagga Smith, Dylan Smith, Madosh Tambwe, Jacques van Rooyen, Harold Vorster, Warren Whiteley (c).


Game breaker:
Although able to play virtually anywhere in the backline, Andries Coetzee made his home at fullback in Super Rugby last year and proved to be one of the most potent attackers in the competition. The electric 27-year-old featured among the leading players for most carries, defenders beaten and metres ran as the Lions stormed all the way to the final. His strong form was rewarded with a spot in the Springboks squad and Coetzee will again provide the Lions with a prime attacking weapon.

Young gun:
It seems like Malcolm Marx has been around for years, but at just 23-years-old the dynamic hooker can still be considered a young gun. Last year was a coming of age year for Marx. At Super Rugby level, Marx crossed for an incredible 10 tries to lead the try-scoring for the Lions. But it was on the international stage where Marx really made his mark. The 115kg powerhouse was ever-present in South Africa’s nail-biting 25-24 loss to the All Blacks in Cape Town. Marx’s performance in that Test match was widely praised and the stage is set for Marx to lift his game even higher in 2018.

Returning veteran:
Warren Whiteley has been central to the Lions transformation from Super Rugby easy-beats to title contenders over the past few years. The hard-running No.8 is a talismanic figure and one of the best leaders in world rugby. At 30-years-old, Whiteley knows his own game inside out and has the ability to get the very best out his players. After tasting defeat in the past two years, Whitely will be desperate to lead his team to a coveted first title this year.

The scoop:
The Lions should once again top the South African conference in 2018. They have managed to retain the bulk of their squad from 2017 but the biggest losses have come off the field with head coach Johan Ackermann and defence coach JP Ferreira both taking up coaching opportunities in the UK. If the players gel quickly under new coach Swys de Bruin then the Lions will be a chance at taking out their first Super Rugby title.