Lions looking very Butch
World Cup-winning Springbok Butch James will start at flyhalf for the Golden Lions as they start the defence of their Currie Cup title.
The men from Johannesburg host the Free State Cheetahs on Saturday.
James, who has been playing mostly at centre for the Lions in Super Rugby while fellow Bok Elton Jantjies was preferred at No.10, takes over in the pivotal role – with Jantjies on international duty.
It is an experienced squad with no real surprises, and there is the good news that another Springbok, CJ van der Linde, joins his 2007 World Cup-winning teammate James in the 22-man match squad.
Van der Linde is on the bench after coming back from a hamstring injury.
Loose forward Warren Whiteley also makes a welcome return after a long-term injury.
Former Free State and Griffons utility forward Willie Britz has also been included on the bench and will probably get his first Lions cap in this match.
JR Esterhuizen, the UJ Varsity Cup wing, takes the step up from the Under-21 side in a backline that is a good mix between the experience – James, centres Lionel Mapoe and Waylon Murray – and the promise of the two young wings Esterhuizen and Anthony Volmink, as well as fullback Andries Coetzee, who is also fit after injury.
Michael Bondesio is the starting scrumhalf.
Up front Josh Strauss starts at flank, his preferred position, with Derick Minnie moving to No.8 and Cobus Grobbelaar getting the nod at No.6, where Minnie used to ply his trade.
Veteran Franco van der Merwe is back in the side and locks the scrum with Hendrik Roodt, who seems to have settled in after a topsy-turvy ride in this position marked the early-season second row selections.
In the front row Jacobie Adriaanse, Callie Visagie and new captain JC Janse van Rensburg form a formidable unit that has dominated in the latter stages of the Super Rugby competition.
Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 JR Esterhuizen, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Waylon Murray, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Butch James, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Derick Minnie, 7 Josh Strauss, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Hendrik Roodt, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg (captain).
Replacements: 16 Francois du Toit, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Willie Britz, 19 Warren Whiteley, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Guy Cronje, 22 Ruan Combrinck.
Date: Saturday, August 11
Venue: Coca-Cola Park, Johannesburg
Kick-off: 17.05 (15.05 GMT)
Referee: Marius Jonker
Assistant referees: Joey Salmans, Cobus Wessels