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MTN LIONS SUPER RUGBY PLAYERS:

 

PROPS

PATRIC CILLIERS

Position: Prop
Physical:
1.86m; 113kg
Born:
03.03.87, Pietermaritizburg
Province:
Golden Lions
Provincial Caps:
68 (Career)
Provincial Points:
60 (12t)
Provincial Debut:
2007 v Western Province (Sharks)
Super Rugby Caps:
19 (Career)
Super Rugby Points:

Super Rugby Debut:
2007 v Lions (Sharks)

 

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Cilliers has made great strides since joining the Lions from the Sharks.

An extremely mobile Tighthead Prop, Cilliers makes more than his fair share of carries and tackles in open play.

Perhaps the most improved aspect of his game though must be his scrummaging which undoubtedly comes from the fact that he has been receiving increasingly more game time since his move from Durban. Testimony to this improvement was his display in the Currie Cup final, where he anchored the Lions scrum to a convincing display against the Beast and his much vaunted Springbok front row.

Expect Cilliers to carry the majority of the duties in the No 3 jersey for the Lions in this Super Rugby campaign.

 

CJ vd LINDE

Position: Prop
Physical:
1.90m; 122kg
Born:
27.08.80, Welkom
Province:
Golden Lions
Provincial Caps:
48 (Career)
Provincial Points:
35 (7t)
Provincial Debut:
2002 v Griffons
Super Rugby Caps:
38 (Career)
Super Rugby Points:
15 (3t)
Super Rugby Debut:
2004 v Brumbies
Test Caps:
74
Test Points:
20 (4t)
Test Debut:
2002 v Scotland

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The saying goes that you can’t buy experience, but it seems like the Lions managed to do just that when they signed CJ from the Stormers prior to the Rugby World Cup last year.

A strong scrummager and ball carrier who has more international caps than Super Rugby experience, albeit due to an overseas stint, CJ showed in the Currie Cup final just why he is so highly regarded internationally.

Expect CJ, together with Patric Cilliers to be the first name on the Lions team sheet throughout the 2012 Super Rugby campaign.

 

JACOBIE ADRIAANSE

Position: Prop
Physical: 1.78m; 112kg
Born:
19.07.85, Cape Town
Province:
Golden Lions
Provincial Caps:
59 (Career)
Provincial Points:
20 (4t)
Provincial Debut:
2007 v Bulls
Super Rugby Caps:
8
Super Rugby Points:

Super Rugby Debut:
2011 v Bulls

 

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Another of the Lions young front rowers who have made tremendous strides over the last 12 months.

Adriaanse represented the “baby Boks” at under 19 level at the 2003 and 2004 World Championships.

Originally signed to supplement the larger player base and play in the Vodacom Cup, Adriaanse soon impressed so much that he found himself in the Super Rugby squad under Kiwi coach John Mitchell’s watchful eye.

Adriaanse played a huge role in the successful 2011 Currie Cup campaign, playing in 15 of the 16 games.

Expect Jacobie to cover the front row from the bench for the majority of the Super Rugby campaign.

 

JC JANSE VAN RENSBURG

Position: Prop
Physical: 1.82m; 113kg
Born: 09.01.86, Prince Albert
Province: Golden Lions
Provincial Caps: 57 (Career)
Provincial Points:
Provincial Debut: 2007 v Sharks
Super Rugby Caps: 41 (Career)
Super Rugby Points: 5 (1t)
Super Rugby Debut: 2008 v Sharks

 

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Janse van Rensburg is another young player at the Lions who represented his country at the 2005 Under 19 world championships, which the “baby Boks” won.

Since his Super Rugby debut in 2008, JC’s career has been on the up, with him making a good impression at the Lions.

He was influential during the early part of the 2011 Currie Cup campaign, but a rib injury saw him miss a large chunk of South Africa’s premier domestic competition.

Hard work by the back room staff saw him fit for the final against the Sharks.

I expect that van Rensburg will do battle with Pat Cilliers for the starting berth during the Super Rugby campaign, but even if he were to come off the bench he would not let the side down.

 

ROSS GELDENHUIS

Position: Tighthead Prop
Physical: 1.88m; 120kg
Birthdate: 19 April 1983
Birthplace: South Africa
Marital Status: Married
High School: St. Andrews College
College/University: UCT

 

 

 

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Although listed in the Vodacom Cup squad, Ross has previously played at Super Rugby level, and if injuries are experienced to the first choice players, we may well see Ross getting some game time anchoring the Lions scrum.

I personally thought he had a bright future ahead of him and was impressed by his strong scrummaging, and he seemed to be developing nicely a couple of seasons ago, but seems to be a little out of favour in recent times.

 

CAYLIB OOSTHUIZEN

Position: Loosehead Prop
Physical: 1.86m; 115kg
Birthdate: 1 September 1989
Birthplace: Cape Town
Marital Status: Single
High School: Oudtshoorn High School
Colllege/University: UJ

 

 

 

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Having played for South Africa at Under 19 level, Caylib is another player from the Vodacom Cup squad who may be thrust into Super Rugby should any injuries occur to the first line players.

I have not personally seen Caylib play, but having represented his country at junior level must stand him in good stead should the need arise for him to represent the Lions at super Rugby level.

 

OVERVIEW

Whilst the Lions seem to have a decent set of first choice Props, I am still somewhat concerned about the lack of a “world class” tighthead.

Having said that, are there ANY in South Africa? My feeling is that there aren’t.

CJ will bring much needed experience into the front row, where the youngsters who did so well in the 2011 edition of the Currie Cup will back him up admirably.

However, should there be a spate of injuries amongst the four top contenders, John Mitchell may well have to throw some really inexperienced youngsters in at the deep end.

 

HOOKERS:

 

MARTIN BEZUIDENHOUT

Name: Martin Bezuidenhout
Position: Hooker
Physical: 1.83m; 104.5kg
Born: 21.08.89, Johannesburg
Province: Golden Lions
Provincial Caps: 28
Provincial Points: 5 (1t)
Provincial Debut: 2010 v Leopards
Super Rugby Caps: 8
Super Rugby Points: 10 (2t)
Super Rugby Debut: 2011 v Bulls

Since his provincial debut in 2010, Martin has become a stalwart in the Lions squad, usually coming off the bench to replace Bandisu Maku who is now unavailable for the duration of the Super Rugby due to injury .

Relatively inexperienced at Super Rugby level, this hard working hooker will need to take charge of the hooking duties and take the step up to the next level of competition.

Given the injury to Maku, I expect Bezuidenhout to appear regularly in the starting 15 during the upcoming campaign.

 

EDGAR MARUTLULLE

Name: Edgar Marutlulle
Position: Hooker
Physical: 1.75m; 100kg
Born: 20.12.87; Boksburg
Province: Golden Lions
Provincial Caps: Not Available
Provincial Points: Not Available
Provincial Debut: Not Available
Super Rugby Caps: Not Available
Super Rugby Points: Not Available
Super Rugby Debut: Not Available

A graduate of the Varsity Cup, Edgar has impressed whenever called on by the Lions to serve at Provincial level.

Relatively small for Super Rugby, expect Edgar to make the squad as a back up player. His lack of experience at such a high level must be a cause of concern for the Lions management.

 

CALLIE VISAGIE

Name: Callie-Theron Visagie
Position: Hooker
Born: 09.07.88
Physical:1.88m, 108kg
Province: Golden Lions
Provincial Caps: Not Available
Provincial Points: Not Available
Provincial Debut: Not Available
Super Rugby Caps: Not Available
Super Rugby Points: Not Available
Super Rugby Debut: Not Available

A recent acquisition by the Lions, Callie made his mark as the captain of Stellenbosch University’s maties in the Varsity Cup.

Since joining up with the Johannesburg based outfit, he has impressed coach John Mitchell with his work ethic and efforts to become part of the Lions family.

Callie made his first appearance in a Lions shirt in the recent friendly against the Kings where he further impressed the coaching staff with a strong display.

A hard physical player, expect Callie to compete with Martin Bezuidenhout for the starting berth during the upcoming campaign.

 

OVERVIEW

The loss of Bandisu Maku must be a massive one to a team battling for their very Super Rugby survival, despite the upbeat comments by coach John Mitchell on the available replacements.

I do not for one moment imply that the replacements are not up to the required level, but the lack of Super Rugby match experience available to the Lions must be of concern.

The draw sees the Johannesburg based franchise spending the start of the campaign on African soil, and hopefully this will help the young hookers available to John Mitchell to settle into a Super Rugby mentality and take the step up.

One thing is for sure, Mitchell and his team of coaches will have done everything in their power to have the youngsters ready both physically and as mentally as possible.

 

LOCKS:

 

FRANCO van der MERWE

Name: Franco van der Merwe
Position: Lock
Physical: 1.98m; 114kg
Born: 14.03.83, Paarl
Province: Golden Lions
Provincial Caps: 139 (Career); 81 (Lions)
Provincial Points: 80 (16t)
Provincial Debut: 2004 v Lions (Leopards)
Super Rugby Caps: 60
Super Rugby Points: 25 (5t)
Super Rugby Debut: 2007 v Waratahs

When one thinks of Franco and his super Rugby carreer, one tends to forget that he has played SIXTY Super Rugby matches dating back to 2007, nearly 5 YEARS.

Originally a loose forward, Franco was retreaded into a lock forward out of necessity for for a Union who, at the time were battling for quality second row forwards and the line out possession that comes with it. This coupled with the success that Franco has achieved, albeit in a largely losing cause, is testament to the palyers’ ability, determination and will to succeed.

Considered by many critics to be a “lightweight” lock, this is preconception is dismissed by Franco’s vital statistics where he streches the tape to just under the 2m mark, and tips the scale at 114kg.

A hard working player who is secure on his own line-out ball and carries the football strongly, while making more than his fair share of tackles and ball steals on the ground.

One of the Lions senior players, Franco has previously captained the side at both Currie Cup and super Rugby level, an ability that should go a long way to settling the youngsters among the Lions pack of forwards.

 

WIKUS van HEERDEN

Name: Wikus van Heerden
Position: Flank/Lock
Physical: 1.93m; 107kg
Born: 25.02.79, Johannesburg
Province: Golden Lions
Provincial Caps: 114 (Career); 99 (Lions)
Provincial Points: 115 (23t)
Provincial Debut: 2001 v Bulls
Super Rugby Caps: 96 (Career)
Super Rugby Points: 90 (18t)
Super Rugby Debut: 2003 v Stormers
Test Caps: 14
Test Points: 5 (1t)
Test Debut: 2003 v Scotland

Another of the Lions most senior players, AND a retreaded flank, this son of former Blue Bull and Springbok great Moaner van Heerden was welcomed back from Europe with open arms by both the Lions management and fans alike.

However, it soon became apparent that Wikus had lost a yard or too of pace, and was struggling to earn a regular place on the side of the Lions pack. John Mitchell though knows quality when it jumps up and bites him, and soon had Wikus doing duty in the engine room that is the second row.

Wikus took to the task at hand like a duck to water, and has arguably bought a new era to his carreer and very possibly kept it (his carreer) alive for some time to come.

Like Franco vd Merwe, Wikus is dependable on his own ball, and does his share in the scrums, but excels in the tight loose, often making vital breaks and breaking tackles that show his loose forward pedigree.

Having more than a decade of provincial experience behind him, this veteran who will celebrate his 33rd birhday on the day the Lions get their 2012 Super Rugby campaign under way, and needs just 4 matches to make the magical century of Super Rugby caps.

I expect we will see Wikus quite regularly in the initial phases of the competition, and as the young locks in the squad gain more experience and confidence, we should see Wikus playing a prominent role off the bench as games develop and cool heads with the ability to analyse and carry games to victory are needed. Experience can’t be bought, it’s gained through yeas of hard work. Wikus has it in buckets full.

 

HENDRIK ROODT

Name: Hendrik Roodt
Position: Lock
Physical: 1.98m; 123kg
Born: 06.11.87, Lichtenburg
Province: Golden Lions
Provincial Caps: 45 (Career)
Provincial Points: 20 (4t)
Provincial Debut: 2007 v Sharks
Super Rugby Caps: 1
Super Rugby Points: -
Super Rugby Debut: 2010 (Waratahs)

This (not so) young lock forward has an interesting and somewhat varied history.

A former Blue Bulls age group player, he found himself in Australia where he made his Super Rugby debut for the Waratahs against the Stromers in 2009.

Returning to South Africa after the conclusion of the 2010 Super Rugby competition he found himself at Griquas, where a Currie Cup campaign followed with performances that were strong enough, despite a season shortening injury, to earn him a place in the Cheetahs 2011 Super Rugby squad.

He was deemed surplus to requirements by the Bloemfontein based franchise, and after a Super Rugby campaign where he failed to make it on to the field, his services were snapped up by the resurgent Lions outfit looking for young second row blood to take the team forward.

Expect this hard as nails young man from Lichtenburg to become more and more prominent as the Super Rugby campaign, with initial game time being from the reserves bench.

 

STEPHAN GREEF

Name: Stephan Greeff
Position: Lock
Physical: 1.98m; 113.5kg
Born: 24.12.89, Cape Town
Province: Golden Lions

This young man had coach John Mitchen waxing lyrical regarding his shortened performance (due to injury) for the Lions against the Southern Kings in a recent compulsory friendly.

A product of Western Province’ age group Rugby, as well as Varcity Cup, Greef is considered an investment for the future by John Mitchell.

Expect Greef to gain an increasing amount of game time from the bench as the Super Rugby season progresses, and coach John Mitchell seeks to expose him to longer and more intense levels of Super Rugby.

Should he seem to be making the grade early on, I’m sure Mitchell will allow Stephan his chance to start a game or two, after all, the Kiwi mentor has shown with youngsters like Jaco Taute and Elton Jantjies that if you’re good enough, you’re old enough.

 

MICHAEL RHODES

Name: Michael Rhodes
Position: Flank/Lock
Physical: 1.96m; 114kg
Born: 19.12.87, Durban
Province: Golden Lions
Provincial Caps: 50 (Career)
Provincial Points: 40 (8t)
Provincial Debut: 2009 v Lions (Sharks)
Super Rugby Caps: 11 (Career)
Super Rugby Points: 10 (2t)
Super Rugby Debut: 2011 (Cheetahs)

Interestingly, despite Rhodes being contracted initially as a loose forward, he is listed on the Lions website as a Flank / Lock, and indeed has been used as cover off the bench as a lock on a number of previous occasions.

A young and talented footballer, Rhodes has a fiery character and has been on the wrong side of the referrees “hand in pocket” more times than his coach would like. It’s an aspect of his game that I’m sure John Mitchell wold like to curb, because when on song and concentrating purely on his football, Rhodes is, in my opinion a sight to behold, and a truly inspiring sight.

In many ways Rhodes reminds me of Rob Louw in his prime, a true tearaway flanker who makes yards every time he touches the ball, and similarly, mows his opposition down in the tackle at every opportunity.

I’m sure we’ll see Michael coming off the bench at regular intervals, whether as a replacement for the hard working loose forwards or to add some extra grunt up front as the starting locks tire.

Either way, we can expect to see action when he’s on the field. Let’s just hope it’s not in the WWE mould around a Kiwi neck.

 

OVERVIEW

Given that the first choice locks from the last campaign are both retreaded loose forwards, it may well be that John Mitchell will start off the Super Rugby campaign for 2012 by utilising a dynamic and fast paced game plan where the likes of vd Merve and van Heerden act almost like 4th and 5th loose forwards getting to the rucks and mauls as quickly as possible and ensuring quick recycled ball.

Later in the game I expect that he will unleash the youngsters and try to keep the pace of the game as fast as possible.

We can rest assured that the Lions squad will be super fit, and this will surely assist a game plan as outlined ablove.

One area of concern though is that none of the Lions locks are really “huge” in the lock forward sense of the word, and when coupled with the inexperience (at Super Rugby level) that the Lions have at hooker, it may well prove to be somewhat detrimental against line outs such as the Stromers and Bulls who I expect will (as always) be extremely competent in this department.

 

LOOSEFORWARDS:

 

JOSHUA STRAUSS

Name: Joshua Strauss
Position: Loose Forward
Physical: 2.00m; 114kg
Born: 23.10.86, Bellville
Province: Golden Lions
Provincial Caps: 37 (Career)
Provincial Points: 20 (4t)
Provincial Debut: 2010 v Cheetahs
Super Rugby Caps: 15 (Career)
Super Rugby Points: 20 (4t)
Super Rugby Debut: 2011 v Bulls

The charismatic Lions captain has become something of a cult figure in Johannesburg (and probably countrywide) Rugby circles, has made a massive impact since being drafted into the Lions team. Instantly recognisabl;e on the field due to his somewhat overgrown and unkempt beard, the never say die loose forward leads by example, is an excellent communicator with match officials, and a great motivator to his team mates.

Something of a latecomer to Rugby, Josh started his carreer in the Boland where he played Under 19 and Under 21 provincial Rugby, followed by a short stint in Europe, only to return to South africa where he joined up with the Lions in 2010.

After a watershed (for the Lions) 2011 Super Rugby campaign, Strauss took over the captaincy reigns during the Currie Cup, and the rest as they say is history.

Equally at home at Flank or Eigth Man, we can expect Joshua to take the field in the starting line up for the majority of the 2012 Super Rugby campaign.

 

DERICK MINNIE

Name: Derick Minnie
Position: Flank
Physical: 1.86m; 103kg
Born: 29.10.86, Johannesburg
Province: Golden Lions
Provincial Caps: 45 (Career)
Provincial Points: 60 (12t)
Provincial Debut: 2008 v Boland
Super Rugby Caps: 26 (Career)
Super Rugby Points: 15 (3t)
Super Rugby Debut: 2010 v Stormers

A born and bred son of Jo’burg, this “tough as old boots” openside flanker loves doing the dirty work on the ground.

Derek Minnie has, since gaining a regular place in the Lions starting line up, proven to friend and foe alike that he is in the top echelon among South Africa’s “fetchers”.

Admittedly, there are times when the hard working number 6 gives away some penalties, but that goes with the territory.

Having played an integral part in the Lions’ successful Currie Cup campaign in 2011, many critics expect Minnie to have an even bigger year in 2012, which if it comes off could well see the big, fast and mobile flanker pushing for higher honours.

Expect Derek to do battle with former captain Cobus Grobbellaar to secure the openside starting berth.

 

COBUS GROBBELLAAR

Name: Cobus Grobbelaar
Position: Loose Forward
Physical: 1.84m; 101kg
Born: 27.05.81, Johannesburg
Province: Golden Lions
Provincial Caps: 103
Provincial Points: 70 (14t)
Provincial Debut: 2003 v Pumas
Super Rugby Caps: 81 (Career)
Super Rugby Points: 40 (8t)
Super Rugby Debut: 2004 v Reds

Cobus “Batwatch” Grobbellaar is now something of a veteran at the Lions, having made his Provincial debut in 2003, and with more than 80 Super Rugby caps behind his name.

As a senior player who has willingly filled the captaincy role when required, “Batwatch” must count himself unlucky to have played his Rugby at a time when South African was blessed with a plethora of talented openside flankers.

Never afraid of hard work, Cobus leads by example, battling for the ball on the floor when required, as well as making countless tackles and carrying the ball strongly in pursuit of team points.

Expect Cobus to challenge with Derick Minnie for the starting openside berth.

 

DOPPIES LE ROUX

Name: Doppies le Roux
Position: Loose Forward
Physical: 1.91m; 108kg
Born: 28.03.85
Province: Ford Pumas
Provincial Caps: Not Available
Provincial Points: Not Available
Provincial Debut: Not Available
Super Rugby Caps: Not Available
Super Rugby Points: Not Available
Super Rugby Debut: Not Available

The tough as teak Pumas Captain impressed many pundits during the 2011 Currie Cup with his strong performances and never say die attitude, as well as being a constant irritation and thorn in the flesh of opposing teams.

Drafted into the Lions Super Rugby squad for the 2012 campaign, I am sure we will see Doppies getting game time, most likely off the bench initially where he will in all likelihood cover for Blindside Flank and Eigth Man.

Should he show the skills level and attitude displayed during the 2011 Currie Cup, I am sure he will not let the side down, and indeed will win many supporters in Johannesburg.

 

JACO KRIEL

Name: Jaco Kriel
Position: Flank
Physical: 1.84m; 98kg
Born: 21.89.89, Standerston
Province: Golden Lions
Provincial Caps: 5
Provincial Points: -
Provincial Debut: 2010 v Bulls
Super Rugby Caps: 1
Super Rugby Points: -
Super Rugby Debut: 2011 v Hurricanes

A young and inexperienced (at Provincial level) player, Kriel has excelled in the Varsity Cup in recent seasons where he represents UJ.

A strong ball carrier who works tirelessly in the loose, we can expect Jaco to be a fringe squad member initially with perhaps some game time off the bench, and possibly a start or two as the season progresses depending on the type of season the team is having and the ongoing expectations of the team’s management.

 

WARREN WHITELEY

Name: Warren Whiteley
Position: Loose Forward
Physical: 1.93m; 105kg
Born: 18.09.87, Durban
Province: Golden Lions
Provincial Caps: 44 (Career)
Provincial Points: 40 (8t)
Provincial Debut: 2008 v Sharks
Super Rugby Caps: 16
Super Rugby Points: 15 (3t)
Super Rugby Debut: 2011 v Bulls

This young and dynamic loose forward has been something of a relevation since joining the Lions.

A strong and athletic line out player, Warren has an amazing turn of speed with ball in hand, that is not immediately obvious given his somewhat awkward looking running style.

Strong on defense as well as an excellent support player for the quick men, expect this to be a year where the 24 year old’s Rugby star shines very brightly.

The only downside for the young man is that he will be competing with the likes of Michael Rhodes and Joshua Strauss for game time. Two players who also have a great role to play in this years’ campaign.

 

MICHAEL RHODES

Name: Michael Rhodes
Position: Flank/Lock
Physical: 1.96m; 114kg
Born: 19.12.87, Durban
Province: Golden Lions
Provincial Caps: 50 (Career)
Provincial Points: 40 (8t)
Provincial Debut: 2009 v Lions (Sharks)
Super Rugby Caps: 11 (Career)
Super Rugby Points: 10 (2t)
Super Rugby Debut: 2011 (Cheetahs)

REFER TO THE ARTICLE ON “LOCKS” FOR A SYNOPSIS ON THIS PLAYER.

 

WIKUS VAN HEERDEN

Name: Wikus van Heerden
Position: Flank/Lock
Physical: 1.93m; 107kg
Born: 25.02.79, Johannesburg
Province: Golden Lions
Provincial Caps: 114 (Career); 99 (Lions)
Provincial Points: 115 (23t)
Provincial Debut: 2001 v Bulls
Super Rugby Caps: 96 (Career)
Super Rugby Points: 90 (18t)
Super Rugby Debut: 2003 v Stormers
Test Caps: 14 Test Points: 5 (1t)
Test Debut: 2003 v Scotland

REFER TO THE ARTICLE ON “LOCKS” FOR A SYNOPSIS ON THIS PLAYER.

 

OVERVIEW

Following on from the successful 2011 Currie Cup campaign, where the Lions squad really started to gel as a unit, I expect that the Lions group of Loose Forwards will more than hold their own against ANY of the other teams in the competition.

With a blend of hardened experience, and extremely talented and willing youngsters, the Lions have a group of Loosies that have the ability to take on the best.

I expect that we will see coach John Mitchell requesting a very fast paced game that will suit the Lions players whom I can assure you will be VERY fit. This coupled with the fact that the Lions Loose forwards are more than capable first phase players in both the scum and line out should see the Lions pack really surprising a number of the other Super Rugby packs.

All in all, a capable group of loose forwards with a number of future super stars in their midst.

 

SCRUMHALVES:

 

ROSS CRONJE

Name: Ross Cronje
Position: Scrumhalf
Physical: 1.81m; 88kg
Born: 26.07.89, Johannesburg
Province: Golden Lions
Provincial Caps: 17 (Career)
Provincial Points: 157 (10t, 28c, 17p)
Provincial Debut: 2009 v Cheetahs
Super Rugby Caps: 1
Super Rugby Points: -
Super Rugby Debut: 2009 v Lions (Sharks)

Cronje makes his debut for the Lions in the 2012 Super Rugby after spending the past two years with the Sharks. Cronje represented the KwaZulu Natal based team in the 2009 Vodacom Cup and Super Rugby competitions, the 2010 Vodacom Cup and U21 Currie Cup and the 2011 Vodacom Cup and Currie Cup teams.

In 2009 he represented South Africa in the IRB Junior World Championships. Cronje is just 22 years of age, and following his achievements at the Sharks in the 2011 Currie Cup competition, much is expected of this youngster in the 2012 Super Rugby.

We can expect Cronje to fight for a place on the bench with Tian Meyer, the Puma’s scrumhalf who has been drafted into the Lions’ expanded squad.

 

MICHAEL BONDISIO

Name: Michael Bondesio
Position: Scrumhalf
Physical: 1.77m; 84kg
Born: 10.03.85, Johannesburg
Province: Golden Lions
Provincial Caps: 66 (Career)
Provincial Points: 65 (13t)
Provincial Debut: 2008 v Valke (Leopards)
Super Rugby Caps: -
Super Rugby Points: -
Super Rugby Debut: -

Bondesio made his debut for the Lions senior team during the 2011 Absa Currie Cup competition.

He impressed from the first game when he stepped up to the plate in workmanlike fashion following the hasty departure of Jano Vermaak to the Bulls – so much so that he became a fixture in the team playing every match, up to and including the final match which saw the Lions winning the competition.

Bondesio is an explosive scrumhalf who is not scared of taking risks on the field and is widely admired by his peers for his strong work ethic.

He will be making his Super Rugby debut this year, where his lack of experience at this level may just be a small cause of concern for the coaching staff.

 

TIAN MEYER

Name: Tian Meyer
Position: Scrumhalf
Physical: 1.76m; 76kg
Born: 20.09.88
Province: Ford Pumas
Provincial Caps: Not Available
Provincial Points: Not Available
Provincial Debut: Not Available
Super Rugby Caps: -
Super Rugby Points: -
Super Rugby Debut: -

Meyer impressed in the 2011 Currie Cup for his province the Ford Pumas to such an extent that John Mitchell drafted him into the Lions super Rugby squad.

The quick as lightning scrumhalf will most likely see action from the bench where he will battle with Ross Cronje for game time.

 

FLYHALVES:

 

ELTON JANTJIES

Name: Elton Jantjies
Position: Flyhalf
Physical: 1.76m; 84kg
Born: 01.08.90, Graaf Reinet
Province: Golden Lions
Provincial Caps: 26
Provincial Points: 329 (2t, 77c, 52p, 3dg)
Provincial Debut: 2010 v Leopards
Super Rugby Caps: 13
Super Rugby Points: 102 (21c, 18p, 2dg)
Super Rugby Debut: 2011 v Bulls

At just 21 years old, Jantjies has an incredibly bright future ahead of him.

Starting his rugby career with the Lions in 2006 at the U16 Craven Week, he has progressed through the ranks, and made his professional debut in the 2010 Currie Cup.

He so impressed during the competition that he was awarded the SARU Young Player of the Year award as well as the SA U20 Player of the Year award and was later rewarded with a place in the Springboks squad for the end of year tour.

The youngster had a mixed 2011 season with a less than ideal super Rugby campaign, possibly due to his lack of experience at this level.

However, under the guidance and mentorship of coach Carlos Spencer, Jantjies was back with a bang in the Currie Cup competition where he showed his true talent.

The second highest points scorer in the competition Jantjies was nominated as Currie Cup player of the Year in the SA Rugby Player Awards, narrowly losing out to team mate and captain, Joshua Strauss.

After such a big season in the Currie Cup, expect the youngster to make a successful step up in this year’s Super Rugby campaign.

 

BUTCH JAMES

Name: Butch James
Position: Flyhalf
Physical: 1.84m; 98kg
Born: 08.01.79, Johannesburg
Province: Golden Lions
Provincial Caps: 68 (Career)
Provincial Points: 507 (11t, 72c, 98p, 4dg)
Provincial Debut: 1999 v Falcons
Super Rugby Caps: 62 (Career)
Super Rugby Points: 407 (6t, 88c, 64p, 3dg)
Super Rugby Debut: 2001 v Bulls
Test Caps: 42
Test Points: 159 (3t, 27c, 29p, 1dg)
Test Debut: 2001 v France

A player with vast experience, James has been there and done that.

No longer a young man, we can expect to see James get gametime off the bench where he should cover both numner 10 and 12.

I’m sure that coach John Mitchell will use Butch when he needs a wise head to close out a close game, and may even see him start when Mitchell feels that the young Jantjies needs a rest.

 

GUY CRONJE

Name: Guy Cronje
Position: Flyhalf
Physical: 1.74m; 79kg
Born: 21.89.89, Standerston
Province: Golden Lions
Provincial Caps: Not Available
Provincial Points: Not Available
Provincial Debut: 2009 (Sharks) v WP
Super Rugby Caps: Not Available
Super Rugby Points: Not Available
Super Rugby Debut: Not Available

The twin brother of Flyhalf Ross Cronje, expect Guy, currently doing duty with UJ in the Varsity Cup to join the squad later in the Super Rugby campaign to offer cover for Jantjies and James.

 

CENTRES:

 

WAYLON MURRAY

Name: Waylon Murray
Position: Centre
Physical: 1.90m; 105kg
Born: 27.04.86, Durban
Province: Golden Lions
Provincial Caps: 74 (Career)
Provincial Points: 115 (23t)
Provincial Debut: 2005 v Lions (Sharks)
Super Rugby Caps: 51 (Career)
Super Rugby Points: 35 (7t)
Super Rugby Debut: 2006 v Crusaders
Test Caps: 3
Test Points: -
Test Debut: 2007 v Samoa

Murray joined the Lions during 2010 from the Sharks after a long career with the Durban based team.

Debuting for the Currie Cup and Super Rugby competitions at 19 and 20 years of age, respectively, Waylon was always likely to be picked for higher honours, something that came to pass at the age os 21.

Murray made his Springbok debut and earned three caps during 2007.

A spate of injuries followed, and Murray spent most of 2009 watching from the sidelines.

However, this powerful centre made his return in 2010 and maintained his former speed, ball possession and talent. Murray was impressive during the 2011 Super Rugby, but after just three games in the Currie Cup, he was ruled out of the competition following injury.

Murray has worked incredibly hard to get his form back and is expected to have a dynamic 2012.

 

LIONEL MAPOE

Name: Lionel Mapoe
Position: Wing/Centre
Physical: 1.82m; 87kg
Born: 13.07.88, Port Elizabeth
Province: Golden Lions
Provincial Caps: 19 (Career)
Provincial Points: 50 (10t)
Provincial Debut: 2008 v Sharks
Super Rugby Caps: 17 (Career)
Super Rugby Points: 10 (2t)
Super Rugby Debut: 2010 v Hurricanes

A very talented youngster who has been somewhat injury prone for the past two years.

2009 was the last time Mapoe was able to stand up and be noticed for his speed and skills, and 2010 saw Mapoe sidelined due to contractual disputes, and he was injured for most of the 2011 Currie Cup competition.

However, Mapoe is recovered and ready to make a comeback in 2012, and much is expected from Mapoe who’s hunger and determination make him a threat to any opponent on the field.

In the few games where he did play in recent times, coach John Mitchell has used Lionel in both the Centre and on the Wing.

Lionel has had to withdraw from the first game of the Super Rugby season once again due to injury, this time a hamstring strain.

 

JACO TAUTE

Name: Jaco Taute
Position: Fullback/Centre
Physical: 1.90m; 98kg
Born: 21.03.91, Springs
Province: Golden Lions
Provincial Caps: 27 (Career)
Provincial Points: 63 (12t; 1p)
Provincial Debut: 2009 v Boland
Super Rugby Caps: 19 (Career)
Super Rugby Points: 30 (6t)
Super Rugby Debut: 2010 v Western Force

Taute may be just 20 year old, but he has already succeeded in making a name for himself, and will no doubt go a long way in the game. Taute made his Currie Cup debut at 18 years of age, his international Super Rugby debut at 19 in 2010, and represented South Africa at the U20 Junior World Championships that same year.

Taute is a huge talent and has grown tremendously in stature over the past year.

A fine attacking fullback, who is safe under the high ball, Taute scored seven tries in the 2011 Currie Cup, making him the 3rd highest try scorer of the competition.

Taute was a nominee in the SA Rugby Player Awards in 2011, nominated as Currie Cup player of the Tournament, but he lost out to teammate and captain, Joshua Strauss.

Although bracketed as both a Centre and Fullback by the Lions management, it is in fact doubtfull that we will see much of this young man in the midfield during the 2012 Super Rugby campaign.

 

ALWYN HOLLENBACH

Name: Alwyn Hollenbach
Position: Centre
Physical: 1.88m; 100kg
Born: 14.06.85, Johannesburg
Province: Golden Lions
Provincial Caps: 70 (Career)
Provincial Points: 90 (18t)
Provincial Debut: 2004 v Sharks
Super Rugby Caps: 8 (Career)
Super Rugby Points: 5 (1t)
Super Rugby Debut: 2006 v Lions (Cheetahs)

Hollenbach began his professional rugby career with the Cheetahs and returned to his home town of Johannesburg in 2009.

Alwyn has grown with each match played in the Lions’ jersey and his consistency has ensured a regular place in the starting lineup.

A massive Currie Cup campaign in 2011 has ensured that much is expected from Alwyn during 2012 by both the Lions management and supporters.

 

DYLAN DES FOUNTAIN

Name: Dylan des Fountain
Position: Utility Back
Physical: 1.87m; 95kg
Born: 07.06.85, Cape Town
Province: Golden Lions
Provincial Caps: 31 (Career)
Provincial Points: 25 (5t)
Provincial Debut: 2007 v Lions (Western Province)
Super Rugby Caps: 24 (Career)
Super Rugby Points: 20 (4t)
Super Rugby Debut: 2007 v Chiefs

A talented and exceptionally creative midfield player, Des Fountain made his debut for the Lions during the 2011 Super Rugby competition where he cemented his spot as a regular in the starting line up.

Des Fountain started his professional career in 2004 with the Bulls where he remained until moving to his birth place to join the Stormers in 2007.

Des Fountain made a name for himself during his four years with the Cape Town franchise, but was not given as much game time as he would have liked.

Since his move to the Lions, Des Fountain has improved in leaps and bounds and is fast becoming a household name in South African rugby.

Currently sporting a medium length injury,, des Fountain is expected to miss at least the first half of the Super Rugby campaign.

 

DOPPIES LA GRANGE

Name: Doppies la Grange
Position: Centre
Physical: 1.82m; 95kg
Born: 02.12.81, Free State
Province: Golden Lions
Provincial Caps: 92 (Career)
Provincial Points: 120 (24t)
Provincial Debut: 2003 v Western Samoa
Super Rugby Caps: 65 (Career)
Super Rugby Points: 25 (5t)
Super Rugby Debut: 2003 v Reds

La Grange is a solid inside centre known for his great upper-body strength, developed during his days as a South African schoolboy wrestling champion.

La Grange has grown in stature in recent years and is a key communicator in the backline.

La Grange has been dogged by injury throughout his career, but he astounded his coaches and teammates by making a strong comeback each time.

Most recently during the 2011 where he was appointed captain of the MTN Lions during the Super Rugby, but both his season and captaincy were curtailed through injury.

His return at the end of the Currie Cup once again proved his skill, determination and strength. He will be giving his all in 2012 to ensure that it will be his best year yet.

 

OVERVIEW

All in all, the Lions have a competent group of midfield players.

Doppies has grown in stature and self belief since the arrival of John Mitchell at the Lions.

Hollenbach showed in the 2011 Currie Cup campaign that he does not need to play second fiddle to ANY centre in south Africa.

I think we will see the Lions using Lionel Mapoe more in the centre than on the wing, and indeed, the few games that I saw Lionel playing centre in last year, I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. His seeming ongoing injury concerns are however a cause for worry for the Lions brains trust.

For me, the big test for this Lions midfield will not be the South african sides, but rather how they manage to surpress the threats posed by the dynamic and elusive midfields from the Antipodean teams.

 

BACK THREE:

 

DEON VAN RENSBURG

Name: Deon van Rensburg
Position: Centre/Wing
Physical: 1.78m; 94kg
Born: 24.01.82, Potchefstroom
Province: Golden Lions
Provincial Caps: 116 (Career)
Provincial Points: 270 (54t)
Provincial Debut: 2004 v Pumas
Super Rugby Caps: 27
Super Rugby Points: 10 (2t)
Super Rugby Debut: 2009 v Chiefs

Van Rensburg made his Super Rugby debut for the Lions in 2009, while on load from the Leopards.

He impressed the Johannesburg team so much that he was signed up permanently and has been a regular in the starting line up ever since.

In 2011 he played 12 Super Rugby and 14 Currie Cup matches, and has really begun to make a name for himself.

Van Rensburg is a speedster who is not afraid to take risks on the field.

His five tries scored during the 2011 Currie Cup competition made him the third top try scorer in his team, and fifth in the competition.

Van Rensburg is expected to excel once again in 2012.

 

JAMES KAMANA

Name: James Kamana
Position: Utility Back
Physical: 1.78m; 91kg
Born: 15.08.85, Hamilton, New Zealand
Province: Golden Lions
Provincial Caps: 8
Provincial Points: -
Provincial Debut: 2011 v Bulls
Super Rugby Caps: 5
Super Rugby Points: -
Super Rugby Debut: 2011 v Griquas

Kamana, born in the Waikato capital of Hamilton, is fast paced and versatile utility back who played New Zealand Sevens before joining the Lions during the 2010 Currie Cup competition.

He represented Waikato on 18 occasions before joining the Tasman Makos.

Kamana was unfortunate in the 2011 Super Rugby when a broken leg caused him to be sidelined for most of the year.

He made an impact when he returned to the field in the 2011 Currie Cup and will be a player to keep an eye on during 2012.

 

MICHAEL KILLIAN

Name: Michael Killian
Position: Wing/Fullback
Physical: 1.81m; 93kg
Born: 22.11.83, Uitenhage
Province: Golden Lions
Provincial Caps: 103 (Career)
Provincial Points: 215 (43t)
Provincial Debut: 2004 v Sharks
Super Rugby Caps: 28 (Career)
Super Rugby Points: 45 (9t)
Super Rugby Debut: 2009 v Chiefs

Killian has played an integral part for the Lions and has become a valuable asset.

Killian has speed and determination like few others, and one of his greatest strengths is his unpredictability.

An elusive player who is comfortable in various positions, Michael is endowed with blistering pace.

He excelled in 2011 and was the top try scorer of the 2011 Currie Cup with 10 tries, a title he shares with Bjorn Basson of the Bulls.

Killian played in the SA Student Sevens team in 2005 and 2007.

 

JACO TAUTE

Name: Jaco Taute
Position: Fullback/Centre
Physical: 1.90m; 98kg
Born: 21.03.91, Springs
Province: Golden Lions
Provincial Caps: 27 (Career)
Provincial Points: 63 (12t; 1p)
Provincial Debut: 2009 v Boland
Super Rugby Caps: 19 (Career)
Super Rugby Points: 30 (6t)
Super Rugby Debut: 2010 v Western Force

FOR A SYNOPSIS ON THIS PLAYER PLEASE SEE THE ARTICLE ON CENTRES

 

LIONEL MAPOE

Name: Lionel Mapoe
Position: Wing/Centre
Physical: 1.82m; 87kg
Born: 13.07.88, Port Elizabeth
Province: Golden Lions
Provincial Caps: 19 (Career)
Provincial Points: 50 (10t)
Provincial Debut: 2008 v Sharks
Super Rugby Caps: 17 (Career)
Super Rugby Points: 10 (2t)
Super Rugby Debut: 2010 v Hurricanes

FOR A SYNOPSIS ON THIS PLAYER PLEASE SEE THE ARTICLE ON CENTRES

 

OVERVIEW

The Lions’ first choice back 3 are more than capable rugby players, with Killian and Taute the stand out talents.

The big challenge for the Lions throughout the squad will come if they experience any number of injuries. Then, their depth of resources will be sorely tested.

One advantage that they have is that they will lose very few players to the Springboks during the mid-tournament break, where they will be able to recoup and get over the niggles that the squad is bound to be experiencing.


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