Preview: Emirates Lions And Tafel Lager Griquas Looking For Their First Win

Photo Credit: Gallo Images

The Emirates Lions play their first Vodacom Super Rugby Unlocked home match on Friday evening when they face the Tafel Lager Griquas in a testing encounter in Johannesburg @ 19h00.

Both the Griquas and Lions are looking for their first win of the Super Rugby Unlocked competitions and are at the bottom of the competition log with two points each. With no final decision made if and when the postponed match between the Lions and Cheetahs will be played both teams also played two games.

Springbok flyhalf Elton Jantjies has recovered from the calf injury he picked up during a training session last week and will captain the Emirates Lions in their Vodacom Super Rugby Unlocked clash with Tafel Lager Griquas in Johannesburg tonight.

The Emirates Airline Park fixture is the Emirates Lions first home match of the new campaign, 258 days since their previous match on home turf before the season was suspended due to COVID-19.

Jantjies was not considered for his side’s encounter last weekend against the Toyota Cheetahs because of the leg injury, but the match was eventually called off in line with COVID-19 protocols. It was confirmed that Friday evening's clash would go ahead following consultation between SA Rugby and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NCID).

Other changes to the Emirates Lions side include the selection of a brand new back trio of Gianni Lombard, Stean Pienaar and Courtnall Skosan. Lombard comes into the side in place of EW Viljoen at fullback, while speedsters Pienaar is preferred over Jamba Ulengo, and Skosan starts instead of Rabz Maxwane.

Emirates Lions Head Coach Cash van Rooyen said the following to explain their thoughts during the selection of the squad to play against the Griquas.

"We would like to reward consistent performance, for us Jamba and Rabz really did well in the first two games. We were going to play them against the Cheetahs but meanwhile back here Courtnall and Stean are really really training well as well. So it is just rotation and we are excited to see what Courtnall and Stean can bring for us.

"Courtnall is obviously a hard worker with great experience and pace and Stean has a fair bit of ex-factor. He is a little bit more unknown which makes him a bit unpredictable. We are excited to give them an opportunity this weekend.

"We are in the fortunate position to have a great group and to have players like Burger Odendaal, Jaco Kriel, Dreyer, and Jannie du Plessis who can sit on the bench. It is really positive for us. It gives players like Wandisile Simelane, Sti Sithole, and Carlu Sadie a chance. We are eager to see what a player like Wandi can bring.

"We are at a place where we can give different players an opportunity. In three to four weeks from now, we will know exactly who is in form.

"We really have a great group of senior players and we feel any one of them can step up to be a captain if needed. Unfortunately, Dan Kriel missed out on the opportunity to captain the side last week and as we currently can’t make any predictions during this time of Covid, and it would be great for Dan if he gets the chance. And even if he doesn’t get the opportunity we know that he will still make a big impact."

Tafel Lager Griquas coach Scott Mathie has named a much-changed team for their Friday evening encounter.

Only six players from their last match – a home defeat to the Phakisa Pumas almost a fortnight ago – have retained their positions in the starting line-up, while there are two positional changes.

The six players who will start in the same positions as two weekends ago, are the midfield pairing of Harlon Klaasen and Andre Swartz, the halfbacks George Whitehead and Zak Burger, Stefan Willemse (flank) and HJ Luus (hooker). 

Emirates Lions: 15 Gianni Lombard; 14 Stean Pienaar, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Courtnall Skosan; 10 Elton Jantjies (captain), 9 Morné van den Berg; 8 Len Massyn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 MJ Pelser, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Sti Sithole. Replacements: 16 PJ Botha, 17 Ruan Dreyer, 18 Jannie du Plessis, 19 Reinhard Nothnagel, 20 Jaco Kriel, 21 Ross Cronjé, 22 Burger Odendaal, 23 Tiaan Swanepoel.

Tafel Lager Griquas: 15 James Verity-Amm, 14 Ederies Arendse, 13 Harlon Klaasen, 12 André Swarts, 11 Eduan Keyter, 10 George Whitehead (captain), 9 Zak Burger, 8 Carl Els, 7 Stefan Willemse, 6 Gideon van der Merwe, 5 Adré Smith, 4 Mzwanele Zito, 3 Ewald van der Westhuizen, 2 HJ Luus, 1 Andrew Beerwinkel. Replacements: 16 Monde Hadebe, 17 Mox Mxoli, 18 John-Roy Jenkinson, 19 Johan Momsen, 20 Ewan Coetzee, 21 Theo Maree, 22 Tinus de Beer, 23 Masixole Banda, 24 Bandisa Ndlovu, 25 CJ Velleman, 26 Johnathan Francke.