Thu, 22 Apr 2021

  • The Lions have confirmed that they've offered a trial to former Sharks and Cheetahs pivot Fred Zeilinga.
  • His potential role at Ellis Park can be seen as the Lions adapting their player profile with their future in Europe's slower conditions in mind.
  • The 28-year-old's presence is no indication of regular skipper Elton Jantjies thinking about greener pastures by the end of the year.

Shortly before the ongoing preparation series started, Rudolf Straeuli made an interesting and telling comment.

While understandably waxing lyrical over the junior talent at the franchise's disposal - the Under-21 team were runners-up in last year's Provincial Championship - the Lions' chief executive noted that some tweaks to recruitment would be required with a European future in mind.

"I'm not saying we'll just stop doing what's been working so well for us over the past six years or so, but we'll definitely have to re-look at the profile of players we target," he told Sport24 previously.

"We're going to play in a tournament and conditions that will be different to what we're used to in Super Rugby. The type of player one would require will differ."

Teams:

Eastern Province

15 Courtney Winnaar (captain), 14 Quentyne Oersen, 13 Athi Mayinje, 12 Sherwin Slater, 11 Christopher Hollis, 10 Karlo Aspeling, 9 Josh Allderman, 8 Zingisa April, 7 Anele Lungisa, 6 CJ Velleman, 5 Arnold Kleyne, 4 Athenkosi Khetani, 3 Emile Klaasen, 2 Sithembiso Befile, 1 Siya Nzuzo

Substitutes: 16 Robin Stevens, 17 Lyle Lombard, 18 Lupumlo Mguca, 19 Mncedisi Dlwengu, 20 Bevin Prinsloo, 21 Diego Williams, 22 Wian van der Sandt, 23 Riaan Arends

Lions

15 Divan Rossouw, 14 Prince Nkabinde, 13 Manny Rass, 12 James Mollentze, 11 Ngia Selengbe, 10 Tiaan Swanepoel, 9 Dillon Smit, 8 Ruhan Straeuli, 7 Sibusiso Sangweni, 6 Mark Snyman, 5 Reinhard Nothnagel (captain), 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Dameon Venter, 1 Nathan McBeth

Substitutes: 16 Morne Brandon, 17 Banele Mthenjane, 18 Asenathi Nthlabakanye, 19 Mandisi Mtiyane, 20 Izan Esterhuizen, 21 Morne van den Berg, 22 Jordan Hendrikse, 23 Luke Rossouw

The Lions have provided an early indication of that by handing a four-week trial to former Sharks and Cheetahs flyhalf Fred Zeilinga.

"It's become very apparent that Fred is desperate for an opportunity," Ivan van Rooyen, the Lions' head coach said on Monday ahead of his charges' trip to Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) to face the Eastern Province Elephants on Wednesday.

"He started training with us last week and he'll be here for most of the month. Hopefully we'll be able to give him some game-time in the prep series."

In many respects, Zeilinga is a throwback to the Lions' initial revival under Johan Ackermann and Swys de Bruin, where the underrated Marnitz Boshoff's solid boot and passing ability was used to good effect.

However, once Elton Jantjies made his career renaissance, the franchise only employed young deputies like Shaun Reynolds and Gianni Lombard on the odd occasion when the Springbok pivot wasn't available.

Yet if Zeilinga can manage to get himself contracted, it would represent the first time in years that the Lions have a pedigreed backup No 10 to Jantjies.

The two men's skillset, with due respect, can't be compared, but Zeilinga is a dependable player with a good boot, PRO14 experience with the Cheetahs and a decent eye for a gap when he's doubling up as fullback.

In a nutshell, the 28-year-old - who recently concluded a two-year stint with Canon Eagles in Japan - is a player you'd like in the bank on a cold, wet night in Belfast or Cardiff.

"It's always a good thing to have a bit of a look at what players are out there," said Van Rooyen.

"Elton will be involved with the Springboks against the British & Irish Lions, so we thought that we should look at an experienced 10 to potentially come into our system.

"Fred has played extensively in South Africa and Japan. He's won trophies and told us personally how eager he is to make an impression."

Zeilinga's involvement is by no means an indication of Jantjies' future at Ellis Park.

"Elton's been in the thick of things since the return to training. There's no talk of him leaving us," said Van Rooyen.

Kick-off at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Wednesday is at 16:45.

Source: News24

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