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Team Preview 2019: The Lions

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Monday, January 28, 2019    allblacks.com    Getty Images

Home: Emirates Airlines Park, Johannesburg
Last season: Beaten finalist

Gains: Danie Mienie
Losses: Ruan Dreyer, Jacques van Rooyen, Franco Mostert, Jaco Kriel, marco Jansen van Vuren, Rohan Janse van Rensburg

SQUAD:

Props
Jacobie Adriaanse, Johannes Jonker, Danie Mienie, Sti Sithole, Dylan Smith

Hookers
Malcolm Marx

Locks
Lourens Erasmus, Rhyno Herbst, Robert Kruger, Marvin Orie

Loose Forwards
Cyle Brink, Hacjivah Dayimani, Len Massyn, Marnus Schoeman, Kwagga Smith, Warren Whiteley

Scrumhalves
Ross Cronje, Nic Groom, Dillon Smit

Flyhalves
Elton Jantjies, Shaun Reynolds

Centres
Lionel Mapoe, Harold Vorster

Outside backs
Ruan Combrinck, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Courtnall Skosan, Madosh Tambwe, Andries Coetzee, Sylvian Mahuza

GAME BREAKER
Unheard of at the start of last year, flying wing Aphiwe Dyanti ended the season as a Springboks starter and the World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year award winner. Blessed with searing pace, a slick side-step and great balance, Dyanti is a potent finisher and dangerous runner from broken play. In his debut Super Rugby season in 2018, Dyanti crossed for seven tries, made 19 clean breaks and beat 41 defenders. Expect Dyanti to be right back at the top of the Lions attacking statistics in 2019.

RETURNING VETERAN
Since making his Super Rugby debut in 2012, versatile outside back Ruan Combrinck has become a key cog in the Lions talented backline. A strong ball-runner and great cover defender, Combrinck is a well-rounded player who can cover any position in the back-three or midfield. Deceptively strong, Combrinck often makes it over the advantage line and is a reliable finisher. With 66 Lions appearances, 29-year-old Combrinck is one of the most experienced players in the Lions backline and will take up a crucial leadership role among the younger players in the squad.
MARKED MAN
Whenever there is a conversation about who the greatest player in the world is, expect Lions hooker Malcolm Marx to be mentioned. An imposing physical presence at 115kg and 1.88m, Marx is superb at set piece time and dangerous in the turnover zone. With ball in hand there is perhaps no more dangerous forward in the world game. Unstoppable close to the line, Marx also has the ability to punch through holes like a powerful mid-field back. Last season Marx scored more tries than any other forward in the competition with 12 and will need to be watched closely if a repeat is to be avoided this year.
THE SCOOP
Always tough to beat at their Johannesburg fortress, the Lions will be favourites to top the South African conference once again. With three finals appearances in the past three years, there is a feeling that the Lions will need a home final in Johannesburg to break their Super Rugby drought. With that in mind, the regular season becomes all the more crucial for the Lions as they will need maximum points to ensure a home run of games to a potential final.