Tue, 15 Jun 2021

  • Pacey winger Rabz Maxwane represents one of the Lions' potential trump cards when they commence their journey in the PRO 16 later this year.
  • The 25-year-old has a belated opportunity this week to make his mark for the team he joined in July last year and clearly enjoyed PRO Rugby given his impressive strike rate for the Cheetahs.
  • Meanwhile, the rapidly improving loose trio of MJ Pelser, Vince Tshituka and Francke Horn have a deserved shot at showing their mettle against Siya Kolisi and co.

Whenever there's talk of the Lions having to tweak some of their recruitment for a new European adventure in the PRO16 later this year, it's invariably focused on forwards.

Senior stalwarts Willem Alberts (Stade Francais), Jannie du Plessis (Montpellier) and Wilhelm van der Sluys (Exeter) all have extensive experience of playing on the continent, while EW Viljoen also had a taste of English conditions with Leicester.

But there's another somewhat less obvious candidate that fits surprisingly neatly in this category too.

Sibahle "Rabz" Maxwane has never represented a European team before, but he's as well qualified as any other member of Ivan van Rooyen's squad to know what will be in store for his franchise in the tournament, which commences later this year.

The 25-year-old winger tore up PRO14 defences in his first full season for the Cheetahs in 2018/19, finishing that campaign's leading try-scorer with 14 touchdowns in just 20 appearances, scoring in locations such as Edinburgh, Parma, Llanelli, Galway and Dublin.

In all, 21 tries in 35 appearances is an impressive strike rate.

Teams:

Sharks

15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 12 Jeremy Ward, 11 Yaw Penxe, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Grant Williams, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Henco Venter, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Fez Mbatha, 1 Ox Nche

Substitutes: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Le Roux Roets, 20 Phepsi Buthelezi, 21 Jaden Hendrikse, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Werner Kok

Lions

15 EW Viljoen, 14 Rabz Maxwane, 13 Wandisile Simelane, 12 Dan Kriel (captain), 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Andre Warner, 8 Francke Horn, 7 Vince Tshituka, 6 MJ Pelser, 5 Reinhard Nothnagel, 4 Ruben Schoeman, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 PJ Botha, 1 Sti Sithole

Substitutes: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Nathan McBeth, 18 Asenathi Ntlabakanye, 19 Len Massyn, 20 Emmanuel Tshituka, 21 Morne van den Berg, 22 Jordan Hendrikse, 23 Burger Odendaal

Untimely niggles prevented Maxwane from making a similar impact for the Lions after moving to Ellis Park in July last year, but this weekend's Rainbow Cup SA encounter with the Sharks at Kings Park could represent the look-in he's been yearning for.

He comes in for Stean Pienaar, who pulled up with a hamstring injury at training.

"Rabz is definitely a different string to our bow," said head coach Van Rooyen.

"He's very different to a guy like Stean. He's out-and-out a racehorse, a guy who's seriously quick. What one values of him is that he scores tries and makes things happen out of seemingly nothing.

"Rabz has been training brilliantly over the last two weeks. He's been a bit unfortunate with niggles over the past year, but he's now ready to go."

As Van Rooyen points out, the burly Pienaar is the proverbial tough nut, a player who invariably gets over the gain-line, which would, if Maxwane grabs his chance, leave the Lions mentor with two wingers that could easily be rotated for different purposes in the PRO16.

However, from a more immediate perspective, Maxwane's somewhat forced inclusion could prove very useful as the Lions' backline - in the absence of men like Elton Jantjies and Tiaan Swanepoel - currently looks more workmanlike than devastating.

His nose for the line means he has some X-factor, alleviating some of the burden on the lively Wandisile Simelane.

Speaking of complementing each other, the retention of the loose trio of MJ Pelser, Vince Tshituka and Francke Horn is an exciting development given how they made life a misery for the Bulls at the breakdown last week.

A challenge against Siya Kolisi, Henco Venter and Sikhumbuzo Notshe is exactly what their evolution requires.

"They've been going well," said Van Rooyen.

"They really do complement each other. All three are really hard workers and have specific roles within our system that they operate in quite effectively.

"It's another opportunity for them against a very good Sharks team. They deserve another shot together."

Kick-off in Durban is at 16:00 on Saturday.

Source: News24

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