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Lions look to kick start 'new era' against the Sharks

The men from Johannesburg also welcome back eight players who were part of the Springbok Showdown in Cape Town last weekend, including captain Elton Jantjies, Carlu Sadie, Marvin Orie and Vincent Tshituka.

The Emirates Lions' Elton Jantjies scores a try during a Super Rugby match against Jaguares at the Emirates Airline Park Stadium, Johannesburg, on 9 March 2019.  Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Jaco Visagie, Rabz Maxwane, Burger Odendaal and EW Viljoen will all make their first appearances for the Lions when they travel to Durban to face the Sharks in the first match of the Super Rugby Unlocked competition on Friday evening.

The foursome joined the Lions in July during lockdown and have all been in action in the warm-up matches in September.

The men from Johannesburg also welcome back eight players who were part of the Springbok Showdown in Cape Town last weekend, including captain Elton Jantjies, Carlu Sadie, Marvin Orie and Vincent Tshituka.

Ahead of the season opener, Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen said the team was hungry to compete again.

"We are confident that the last 2 or 3 weeks really went well, the players understand what we want to achieve and how we want to get there. Its just a massive opportunity for us to be back after 6 or 7 months and we are looking forward to it," he said.

With a good mixture of experienced players and a number of youngsters coming through the ranks, Van Rooyen hoped that this was the start of a new era for the team.

"We've got an opportunity to start our own story and write our own history, so for us as a team we are committed to move forward together in all facets and get close as a group. At the end of the day we have to do the talking on the field and that's where the most excitement is," he said.

Before the Super Rugby season was cancelled, the Sharks were on top of the table and Van Rooyen is under no illusions about the task that lies ahead.

"They have a great forward pack, they can dominate physically and put a lot of pressure on you defensively, so they are a quality side and we will show them that respect. But at the same time, it's game one for everyone and we see it as an opportunity to start fresh," he said.

Kick off on Friday is at 7pm.