VIDEO: Lions boss sheds light on festive rugby
REACTION: It is certainly going to be an unusual occurrence of having live rugby over the holidays.
South Africa fans are used to preparing for the Cape Town Sevens and International Cricket matches. However, this year rugby has taken over the holiday period.
South Africa’s seven franchises will battle it out for Super Rugby Unlocked and Currie Cup honours when the domestic season resumes on October 9, after a complete re-working of fixtures and competition structures were forced by the six-month interruption.
It’s unlikely that players will get much of a break.
The first round of matches – from October 9 to November 21 – will be for Super Rugby Unlocked, where the Lions kick off their campaign against the Sharks on Friday.
All log points will then be carried forward into the second round – the Currie Cup from November 28 to January 9, 2021 – which will culminate in semifinals (January 16) and a final on January 23 next year.
There is still no talk of crowd attendance.
When asked about the players’ readiness for the challenging season, Lions head coach Ivan van Rooyen said: “Aside from those who have played in Europe or Japan, it is the first time that the squad will have to play over the festive season.
“We spoke about it and I think if you don’t address it, it will catch you by surprise,” Van Rooyen told reporters
“On December 26 we are playing [the Blue Bulls] at Loftus and on January 2 we are in Nelspruit [against the Pumas], so both should be 35 or 36 degrees and upwards.”
He added: “Just a little less Christmas pudding but its a privilege to be back playing and its an opportunity to express ourselves and be back as a team.”
— rugby365.com (@rugby365com) October 7, 2020
The Lions have already named their team to face the Sharks on Friday.
And there were some interesting selections with one being EW Viljoen in the fullback position.
“EW has played a lot of his junior and schoolboy rugby at 15,” the coach revealed.
“He has got a great natural feel towards the ball. He gives us a good right-foot option from the back, he is tall and good under the high ball. So, we are excited about what he can bring at 15. We have said from the beginning that he is versatile. We like having players that can play multiple positions and he definitely does that.”
Willem Alberts is another interesting selection as the Springbok will start at lock instead of the usual flank positon.
“Willem has played at lock and we feel he can make a difference there,” Van Rooyen explained.
“Just having him in the system is unbelievable. What he brings to the team room and team meetings as a guy off the field is immense for us. He is a great character to have around.
“In terms of his physicality, he understands what we want from him. He is very comfortable with what he can bring.
“I don’t think he is necessarily ready to play 80 minutes because he only returned to training last week.
“Nonetheless, we feel, especially with the Sharks pack and the way they play, that a bit of grunt can never hurt.”