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As last year’s runners-up and South Africa’s top team, there will be plenty of pressure on the Lions this year and although the Cheetahs were also rans in 2016’s Super Rugby, they will be brimming with confidence after winning the Currie Cup.
Under the guidance of head coach Franco Smith, the Cheetahs swept all before them in South Africa’s domestic competition and they will be determined to make the step up to Super Rugby level.
That is of course easier said than done but Smith is quietly confident that his charges will do well.
“I am satisfied with where we are after the pre-season,” he said.
“Everyone trained really hard and we are as well prepared as we can be. The majority of the players have played Super Rugby and know what the intensity will be like.”
The Lions were like a breathe of fresh air on the South African landscape in 2016 and although there’s presure on them to win Super Rugby this year, head coach Johan Ackermann is focusing on their opener against the Cheetahs.
“You have to stay in the moment and not many teams are able to go through Super Rugby‚ especially with this format‚” Ackermann.
“There have been examples of teams who started badly yet went on to win the tournament.
“The Hurricanes were the example last year that shows you can turn it around if you win plenty of matches on the trot.
“Some teams know how to get momentum and keep it. We were fortunate that we had a good finish.
“We’re not going to target games. We’ll just look at matches on a weekly basis and we’ll do what has been serving us well in the past three years.”
Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Nico Lee, 12 Clinton Swart, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Paul Schoeman, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Uzair Cassiem, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld (c), 1 Charles Marais
Replacements: 16 Elandre Huggett, 17 Danie Mienie, 18 Ox Nche, 19 Francois Uys, 20 Niell Jordaan, 21 Zee Mkhabela, 22 Niel Marais, 23 Ryno Benjamin
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 Howard Mnisi, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen
Replacements: 16 Akker vd Merwe, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Ross Cronjé, 22 Harold Vorster, 23 Jaco van der Walt