Jaco Kriel back as Lions loan 5 Pumas for first ever United Rugby Champs tour

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Jaco Kriel. (Photo by Anton Geyser/Gallo Images)
Jaco Kriel. (Photo by Anton Geyser/Gallo Images)

Jaco Kriel makes a welcome return to the ranks after being included in the Lions' 33-man squad for their four-match tour to commence their inaugural United Rugby Championship (URC) campaign.

The 31-year-old flanker, a fan favourite at Ellis Park, was lured back to much fanfare last year before Covid-19's hard lockdown delayed his comeback from a long-standing ankle injury.

But even once the local game resumed, Kriel's appearances have been limited due to continued niggles associated with his troublesome limb and, recently, virus protocols.

It's hope now, however, that the bustling, gifted loose forward - an 11-cap Springbok - is over his problems and can spearhead the franchise's improvement after a poor Currie Cup campaign.

He'll be joined by several other experienced men in Ruan Dreyer, Jannie du Plessis, Jaco Visagie, Wilhelm van der Sluys and Burger Odendaal.

Interestingly, head coach Ivan van Rooyen had no hesitation enlisting all five of his Pumas loan players - Morgan Naude, Eddie Fouche, Ginter Smuts, Matt More and Pieter Jansen van Vuren.

Jansen van Vuren, the Lowvelders' rock-solid second-rower and captain, looks a particularly useful addition as the Lions lack battle-hardened men at lock, particularly since veteran Willem Alberts is still recovering from a hamstring injury.

 "As a coaching unit, we've been fortunate enough to have time to discuss and plan how we want to approach the URC. This was coupled with a few on-field sessions before settling on a final 33," said Van Rooyen.

"We expect conditions to be challenging up north but at the same time looking forward to competing and establishing ourselves as the competition progresses."

The Lions, like the rest of their counterparts, fly out late in the week to complete quarantine requirements though they are allowed to train normally during that period.

Their opening match is against Italy's Zebre on 24 September.

Lions URC touring squad:

Forwards

PJ Botha, Morne Brandon, Ruan Dreyer, Jannie Du Plessis, Francke Horn, Pieter Jansen van Vuren, Jaco Kriel Morgan Naude, Reinhard Nothnagel, Asenathi Ntlabakanye, Carlu Sadie, Sibusiso Sangweni, Ruben Schoeman, Sti Sithole, Ruhan Straeuli, Emmanuel Tshituka, Vincent Tshituka, Wilhelm van der Sluys and Jaco Visagie.  

Backs

Eddie Fouche, Jordan Hendrikse, Sibahle ‘Rabz’ Maxwane, Matt More, Burger Odendaal,Stean Pienaar, Manuel Rass, Divan Rossouw, Wandisile Simelane, Ginter Smuts, Jamba Ulengo, Morne Van den Berg, EW Viljoen and Andre Warner.

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