Teams usually bulk up upfront but the Golden Lions in a surprising twist has smartened up for Saturday’s Currie Cup clash against the Free State XV at Ellis Park.
The introduction on the bench of Zimbabwean-born prop Stephen Bhasera has brought a buzz and even coach Ivan van Rooyen is filled with anticipation.
“I’m very excited about him. He’s a youngster getting an opportunity.
"He’s probably in the top five most intelligent people I’ve met in my life‚” said Van Rooyen said about the 22-year-old.
“He’s very intelligent which is nice because he brings a different flavour to the team and the team room.”
When Bhasera was in matric he passed his Cambridge University entrance exams in geography‚ English literature and history.
For geography he achieved the second highest marks in the world for Cambridge applicants.
He completed school in the country of his birth before he crossed the Limpopo. The law student has already raised the bar in the discourse in the Lions’ den.
“I’m a part time student. I think it’s fantastic for me to have a guy like Stephen‚” said captain Marvin Orie.
“He’s challenging. The conversations are challenging for all of us.”
Bhasera is in the match day squad because fellow prop Johannes Jonker has to sit this match out through injury.
“We don’t know long he’ll be out for‚” said Van Rooyen.
“We are happy and fortunate that Corne (Fourie) and Marvin came through‚” he said about the concussion protocol hurdles the pair had cleared.
Although the Lions won their opening two matches Van Rooyen wants his team to be a little more zealous in their protection of the ball.
“We need to show a little more respect for the ball. We are losing too much ball. Not due to pressure. We need to be more clinical in attack.”
Against a team as uninhibited as the little-to-lose Free State XV‚ they will have to be particularly vigilant against conceding possession.
“They are very good off turn overs. They keep width well in attack‚” said Van Rooyen.
Although there is much excitement around Bhasera’s debut‚ another man on the bench Wandisile Simelane‚ is like a coiled spring in anticipation of a start.
“Everything in time‚” reminded Van Rooyen about the centre who started the Lions’ first two Currie Cup matches off the bench.
“He’s very exciting. We’ll see how it goes this weekend. We gave him game time when we were in front (against Griquas) and last week against the Bulls we were behind when he came on.
“I think we can test him in whatever conditions.
"He’s good enough for everything. In the first game he made a difference and made the gap bigger and in the second we were behind but we pulled it off. It is very good for the youngsters’ growth.”
The Golden Lions team:
Sylvian Mahuza; Madosh Tambwe‚ Lionel Mapoe‚ Howard Mnisi‚ Courtnall Skosan; Shaun Reynolds‚ Dillon Smit; Hacjivah Dayimani‚ Len Massyn‚ James Venter; Marvin Orie (captain)‚ Rhyno Herbst; Jacobie Adriaanse‚ Pieter Jansen‚ Sti Sithole.
Corne Fourie‚ Danie Mienie‚ Stephen Bhasera‚ Reinhard Nothnagel‚ Vincent Tshituka‚ Bradley Thain‚ Wandisile Simelane.