The Emirates Lions will kickoff the much anticipated United Rugby Challenge when they pay Zebre on Friday. Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen knows this is a step up from the Currie Cup and wants to make a good start in Round 1.
Zebre did not had a good season last time around in the PRO14 but by no means can the Lions take this Italian see lightly and this may be an easy start for the Lions but easy it will not be.
Jordan Hendrikse will partner with Andre Warner as the halfback combination for this weekend, with Simelane and Odendaal in the midfield which bring plenty of experience to the Lions side.
EW Viljoen has again got the number fifteen jumper and he will be joined by Ulengo and Maxwane to complete the back three for the Lions.
In the pack Lions fans will be happy to see that Springbok Jaco Kriel is back at number six after a long injury layoff. He will form the loose trio with Francke Horn and the talented Vincent Tshituka.
In the second row Van Rooyen went with Pieter Janse Van Vuuren and Ruben Schoeman with Sadie, Visagie and Dreyer starting as the front row.
Van Rooyen said that the player are looking forward to the new challenges what the competition will bring.
There will be a lot of eyes on Zebre who made plenty of new signings that should bring them some better results than last season.
The match will be live on SuperSport on Friday at 18:30 so do not miss out on some great Friday night rugby
Zebre: Junior Laloifi, Pierre Bruno, Giulio Bisegni (captain), Tommaso Boni, Mattia Bellini, Carlo Canna, Marcello Violi, Danilo Fischetti, Luca Bigi, Matteo Nocera, David Sisi, Leonard Krumov, Maxime Mbanda, Iacopo Bianchi, Renato Giammarioli.
Replacements: Oliviero Fabiani, Andrea Lovotti, Ion Neculai, Andrea Zambonin, Govanni Licata, Alessandro Fusco, Antonio Rizzi, Jacopo Trulla.
Emirates Lions: EW Viljoen, Jamba Ulengo, Wandisile Simelane, Burger Odendaal (captain), Rabz Maxwane, Jordan Hendrikse, Andre Warner, Francke Horn, Vincent Tshituka, Jaco Kriel, Pieter Jansen Van Vuren, Ruben Schoeman, Carlu Sadie, Jaco Visagie, Ruan Dreyer.
Replacements: PJ Botha, Sti Sithole, Asenathi Ntlabakanye, Reinhard Nothnagel, Sibusiso Sangweni, Morne van den Berg, Eddie Fouche, Divan Rossouw.