Wounded Lions look to turn fortunes around

GAUTENG Lions president Kevin de Klerk gave a stirring speech ahead of his team's opening Currie Cup match tonight against the Leopards at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg.

GAUTENG Lions president Kevin de Klerk gave a stirring speech ahead of his team's opening Currie Cup match tonight against the Leopards at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg.

Launching the province's campaign at the Johannesburg Zoo on Wednesday afternoon, De Klerk spoke of how his side were hurting after losing all 13 games in this year's Super 14.

But making a great speech is one thing and winning is another. It is up to the selected team to produce the goods tonight to back up the president's claim that things are going to change for the Doornfontein-based side.

New coach John Mitchell is another who believes the Lions' fortunes are about to change.

"It's the away games that determine your character," Mitchell said.

"You need a strong mental focus and my players have that.

"All the players in this team deserve their places and we have a nice balance of youth and experience.

"The forwards must do the forwards' work and the backs the backs' work.

"But the boys are surrounded by players they know they can rely on," Mitchell said.

With regular captain Cobus Grobbelar out for the next few months with a shoulder injury, flank Franco van der Merwe takes over the captaincy for the season.

The Lions side has a youthful look to it with seven players making their Currie Cup debut tonight.

Jaco Taute gets a start at fullback, as does David Bulbring at lock and Martin Bezuidenhout at hooker.

New signing from the Sharks, Waylon Murray, starts in the inside centre position and Jano Vermaak has completed his rehabilitation from injury to start in the scrumhalf position.

The Leopards are pretty much an unknown bunch with just Ligtoring Landman and Pellow van der Westhuizen standing out... if only because of their unusual names!

Weekend fixtures:

TONIGHT - Blue Bulls vs Pumas (Pretoria).

TOMORROW - Griquas vs Sharks (Kimberley) and Cheetahs vs Western Province (Bloemfontein).

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