Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen has put out a strong match-23, which also sees the return of Willem Alberts and Tiaan Swanepoel from long-term injuries as both were included on the bench.
“It’s good to be back home. We’ve put in solid training sessions on and off the field over the past three weeks and the guys are looking in great shape and quite excited to play at home,” said Van Rooyen.
“Our focus this weekend is to achieve a positive result by executing on the plans we have set out for ourselves as a squad and most importantly improving on the gains we achieved overseas in certain areas.”
Van Rooyen was happy with the progress of the injured squad members upon the team’s return from Europe: “We are extremely pleased to have a majority fit squad to select from for first home fixture.
“Willem and Tiaan missed out on the first four games of our northern hemisphere campaign, so they’ll be raring to go should they get an opportunity.”
In other changes, Fred Zeilinga will start at flyhalf, with EW Viljoen reverting to fullback, with Matt More coming in as backline cover.
With a maximum of 2000 fans allowed back at rugby stadiums in South Africa, Van Rooyen believes this will boost his team.
“The fact that we’ll have a few fans back is a bonus. It may not be a large amount, but it goes a very long way in creating an atmosphere at the stadium and serves as added motivation for the players,” he concluded.
Emirates Lions: 15 EW Viljoen, 14 Rabz Maxwane, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Burger Odendaal (captain), 11 Edwill van der Merwe, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Andre Warner, 8 Francke Horn, 7 Vincent Tshituka, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Reinhard Nothnagel, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Jaco Visagie, 1 Sti Sithole Replacements: 16 PJ Botha, 17 Morgan Naude, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Willem Alberts, 20 Ruhan Straeuli, 21 Morne van den Berg, 22 Matt More, 23 Tiaan Swanepoel.