South African Lions pick two former Springboks for tour opener

Johannesburg (AFP) –


South African franchise the Lions have chosen two former Springboks, wing Jamba Ulengo and prop Ruan Dreyer, to face the British and Irish Lions at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.

The match, which will be staged behind closed doors due to a raging coronavirus third wave in the region, is the first of eight for the tourists, including three Tests.

Ulengo won his solitary cap in 2016, the same year that tighthead Dreyer debuted for South Africa and went on to make four Test appearances.

Flanker Vincent Tshituka was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country that does not have a national rugby team, and his younger brother, Emmanuel, is among the replacements.

The Lions have produced the poorest results among the four major South African franchises since rugby resumed last September after a lengthy virus-induced shutdown.

They conceded 39 points in a heavy away loss to the Pumas last month in the Currie Cup, the leading domestic competition.

But head coach Ivan van Rooyen is relishing the opportunity for his mainly young squad to tackle a visiting team captained by Scotland full-back Stuart Hogg.

"There is such a small group of guys who will have the chance to play against players of this calibre in their lifetime.

"I hope that they truly (find) a moment to take it in and savour the enormity of the (occasion)," he said ahead of what is likely to be the least challenging fixture for the tourists.

Lions team


EW Viljoen; Jamba Ulengo, Manuel Rass, Burger Odendaal, Rabz Maxwane; Jordan Hendrikse, Dillon Smit; Francke Horn (capt), Vincent Tshituka, Sibusiso Sangweni; Reinhard Nothnagel, Ruben Schoeman; Ruan Dreyer, PJ Botha, Nathan McBeth

Replacements: Jaco Visagie, Sti Sithole, Carlu Sadie, Ruhan Straeuli, Emmanuel Tshituka, Morne van den Berg, Fred Zeilinga, Dan Kriel