Emirates Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen has given his charges a vote of confidence after their come-from-behind win over the Vodacom Bulls by selecting virtually the same match-day 23 for their Rainbow Cup SA match against the Cell C Sharks at Ellis Park on Saturday. 

The only exception is the return of Dan Kriel for Mannie Rass on the bench as they look to build on what was a morale-boosting victory.

Still, the Lions will go into the game knowing they can play a spoiler role in the competition and will be looking to build to gain more confidence ahead of their British and Irish Lions tour opener against the tourists in a month’s time.

That fixture has been hanging over all the Lions preparations of late, especially as, other than Wandisile Simelane, they don’t seem to have too many Springbok candidates for the team to be announced on Saturday evening.

And while this may be the case, it seems the Lions are more intent on rediscovering their attacking DNA than on squad announcements.

The quiet short term goal of being strong against the tourists comes with the backdrop of preparing for an entry into PRO16 and already they are looking a lot more composed and comfortable than they were a month ago.

The emergence of MJ Pelser as a genuine breakdown threat is something that the Sharks will take seriously, especially when backed up by the likes of Len Massyn and a powerful front row that is slowly emerging as a massive backbone in the Lions’ play.

Pelser’s arrival on the scene has possibly been overshadowed by other players in the country but the flanker, who grew up in Rustenburg is quietly carving out a name for himself among some of the toughest games in the competition.

Add to that the impressive young Jordan Hendrikse, who will be with the side until the SA under-20 side gets together and the speed on the wings and the Lions have a few trump cards up their sleeves.

And given the Sharks frailties up front, there is no doubt the Lions will be hoping to exploit this as they look to not only play spoiler, but continue building towards that massive opening Lions tour game.

Emirates Lions:EW Viljoen; Rabz Maxwane, Wandisile Simelane, Burger Odendaal (capt), Courtnall Skosan; Jordan Hendrikse, André Warner; Len Massyn, Vincent Tshituka, MJ Pelser; Reinhard Nothnagel, Ruben Schoeman, Carlu Sadie, Jaco Visagie, Sti Sithole. 

Replacements:PJ Botha, Ruan Dreyer, Asenathi Ntlabakanye, Willem Alberts, Emmanuel Tshituka, Morné van den Berg, Fred Zeilinga, Dan Kriel

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