- Mziwakhe Nkosi’s appointment as the Lions’ coach for the preparation series acknowledges his rising stock as well as the need to further align franchise structures.
- The former SA Schools mentor and current Lions Under-21 coach says he’s hardly looking towards reinventing the wheel.
- Regular head coach Ivan van Rooyen believes the small shake-up is “hugely beneficial” for the franchise as a whole.
While Mziwakhe Nkosi’s appointment as the Lions’ mentor for the upcoming preparation series is undeniably an indication of his rising stock, the franchise also hopes it’s simply a solid way of aligning all playing structures.
The former SA Schools coach’s role was confirmed on Tuesday ahead of a home fixture against the Pumas on Friday evening, whose match squad features a significant number of juniors whom he coached to the final of last year’s Under-21 Championship.
Given the expectation that Nkosi would be the prime candidate to guide the Lions’ outfit in the SA Cup – the qualification tournament for this year’s Currie Cup – handing him more responsibility makes eminent sense.
“It’s just a great opportunity for us to get all the coaches involved in this campaign,” said Ivan van Rooyen, who’ll be assuming a more umbrella-type role for the next few weeks before returning to his head coach role closer to the start of the Rainbow Cup.
“Mziwakhe is head coach of this group along with Wessel Roux, who’ll be working with the forwards. All the senior team’s coaches are also closely involved. Two weeks from now, there’ll probably be a few different roles for some of them.
“But we had a great session (just before this announcement) where all the coaches were coaching simultaneously. I just believe it’s going to be massively beneficial for us.”
Nkosi, who was calmness personified during the team announcement, is not looking to reinvent the wheel.
In fact, his Under-21 charges’ style of play had an unmistakable Lions DNA imprinted on it and even showed a shade of grunt in a gritty win over eventual champions, the Bulls.
“This is not a case of a new broom sweeping clean,” said Nkosi.
“As a franchise, we have a clear identity and we’re not going to veer far from it. Of course, we’ll also have to play to conditions. We’ll have to judge things, but the plan is definitely to adopt our usual style.”
With the majority of the Lions’ senior group having only commenced training again this week, it’s been the juniors who’ve been taking centre stage in Doornfontein and are arguably now even more motivated and excited to perform than would’ve been the case already.
“Naturally, that’s the case. It’s an opportunity for the younger players to get exposed to the ideas and management of the senior team coaches. That plays a massive role,” said Nkosi.
“It’s also given us, as a franchise, a brilliant opportunity to further improve our alignment in terms of what’s happening at lower levels and what’s happening at the top. It’s been a fruitful couple of weeks.
“This is essentially the next group of players that we want to blood into the senior team. We’re pretty confident they’ll make the step up. In any event, we wouldn’t have put them there if we weren’t confident in their abilities.”
Friday’s match at Ellis Park kicks-off at 19:00.
15 EW Viljoen, 14 Prince Nkabinde, 13 Manny Rass, 12 James Mollentze, 11 Divan Rossouw, 10 Tiaan Swanepoel, 9 Morne van den Berg, 8 Francke Horn, 7 Roelof Smit, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Reinhard Nothnagel (captain), 4 Emmanuel Tshituka, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 PJ Botha, 1 Nathan McBeth
Substitutes: 16 Dameon Venter, 17 Banele Mthenjane, 18 Jannie du Plessis, 19 Ruhan Straeuli, 20 MJ Pelser, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Luke Rossouw, 23 Ngia Selengebe, 24 Ruan Dreyer, 25 Izan Esterhuizen, 26 Sibusiso Sangweni
15 Devon Williams, 14 Luther Obi, 13 Alwayno Visagie, 12 Wayne van der Bank, 11 Etienne Taljaard, 10 Eddie Fouche, 9 Giovan Snyman, 8 Willie Engelbrecht, 7 Ewart Potgieter, 6 Daniel Maartens, 5 Pieter Jansen van Vuren (captain), 4 Brandon Valentyn, 3 Ig Prinsloo, 2 Simon Westradt, 1 Morgan Naude
Substitutes: 16 AJ le Roux, 17 Liam Hendricks, 18 Dewald Maritz, 19 Le Roux Roets, 20 Kwanda Dimaza, 21 Ginter Smuts, 22 Ali Mgijima, 23 Tapiwa Mafura