New Lions have chance to impress
Several new recruits will get their chance to shine when the Lions kick off their season with a home game against Russia this weekend.
The Johannesburg side, axed from Super Rugby at the expense of the Southern Kings, will kick-start the new Lions Challenge series at Ellis Park on Saturday.
The Golden Lions Rugby Union organised matches against international teams like the Russians and Samoa, a three-week tour of North America, five games against top French opposition, and fixtures against all five South African Super Rugby teams.
The series of games ends on July 20, with Lions supporters having 12 matches, including a Super Rugby promotion/relegation game on August 3, to look forward to at Ellis Park.
According to the Beeld website, two new flyhalves, Lionel Cronjé - who joined from the Bulls - and Marnitz Boshoff, will make their debuts against Russia on Saturday, as they fill the void left by the departure of Elton Jantjies (on loan to the Stormers) and Butch James (Sharks).
Two new locks will also get their chance, with Varsity Cup stars Franco Mostert (Tuks) and Hugo Kloppers (Maties) set for their debuts. The duo has some big shoes to fill, after Franco Van der Merwe (Sharks), Michael Rhodes, Ruan Botha (both WP), Paul Willemse (Bulls) and Ettienne Oosthuizen (Brumbies) sought greener pastures, while another lock, Wikus van Heerden, retired at the end of last season.
Former Maties centre Stokkies Hanekom is also set to get his first chance, while CJ van der Linde, (prop) Deon van Rensburg (wing), Dylan des Fountain (centre) and Whestley Moolman (scrumhalf) will be unavailable due to injury niggles.
Lions' fixture list for 2013 (which includes Lions Challenge matches and excludes Currie Cup games):
19 January: Lions v Russia - Ellis Park, Johannesburg
23 January: Lions v Cheetahs - Ellis Park
2 February: Lions v Bulls - Orlando Stadium, Soweto
9 February: Lions v Kings - Ellis Park
23 February: Namibia v Lions - Windhoek
16 March: Lions v Mont de Marsan - Ellis Park
13 April: US Invitational v Lions - Ervine, California
20 April: US Invitational v Lions - Vancouver, Canada
27 April: Chicago Lions v Lions - Chicago
11 May: Lions v Agen - Ellis Park
1 June: Lions v Samoa - Ellis Park
8 June: Lions v French Barbarians - Ellis Park
15 June: Lions v Stormers - Ellis Park
21 June: Lions v Sharks - Ellis Park
12 July: Lions v Montpellier - Ellis Park
20 July: Lions v Grenoble - Ellis Park
27 July: Super Rugy promotion/relegation first leg - TBA
3 August: Super Rugby promotion/relegation - Ellis Park