Lions name Super Rugby squad

Warren Whiteley's return from a lengthy groin injury, and other Springbok stars' form, will be key to the Lions' hopes of having a third excellent Super Rugby season in a row. Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

South African Super Rugby team the Lions have named their squad for the 2018 tournament and look thin on experience in some key areas as they seek to make a third final in a row.

The Johannesburg-based side were beaten in the 2016 and 2017 deciders, and have since seen influential coach Johan Ackermann join Gloucester in England.

His replacement, former assistant Swys de Bruin could have his work cut out to make it a hat-trick of final appearances though with a 40-man squad that has versatility, but perhaps not the depth of previous years.

Springbok Elton Jantjies is the only experienced flyhalf in the group and should he be unavailable, De Bruin will have to rely on Shaun Reynolds or Ashlon Davids, neither of who have been really tested at this level.

Springbok fullback Andries Coetzee could fill in as well, though it is not his specialist position.

Injuries to wings Courtnall Skosan and Ruan Combrinck that will see them miss a sizeable chunk of the season, in the case of the former perhaps all of it, leaves Aphiwe Dyanti and Madosh Tambwe as the only specialist options out wide.

Both have shown great potential, but again have limited experience in Super Rugby.

Another Springbok in centre Lionel Mapoe could move out wide as a stop-gap, and that may well be how De Bruin starts the season.

The forward pack has remained largely intact, with the return to fitness of captain Warren Whiteley -- out with a groin injury since August 2017 -- a major boost.

De Bruin can call on 13 Bok players in the squad, but will hope that the majority stay fit through the campaign for the team to stay competitive.

The Lions open their campaign at home to the Sharks on February 17.

Full squad:

Fullbacks: Andries Coetzee, Sylvian Mahuza

Wings: Courtnall Skosan, Ruan Combrinck, Aphiwe Dyanti, Madosh Tambwe

Centres: Lionel Mapoe, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Harold Vorster, Howard Mnisi

Flyhalves: Elton Jantjies, Shaun Reynolds, Ashlon Davids

Scrumhalves: Ross Cronje, Marco Janse van Vuren, Dillon Smit, Christiaan Meyer

Loose forwards: Warren Whiteley, Cyle Brink, Jaco Kriel, Kwagga Smith, Marnus Schoeman, Len Massyn, Hacjivah Dayimani, Willie Engelbrecht

Locks: Franco Mostert, Marvin Orie, Andries Ferreira, Rhyno Herbst, Robert Kruger, Lourens Erasmus

Hookers: Malcolm Marx, Robbie Coetzee, Corne Fourie

Props: Jacques van Rooyen, Sti Sithole, Jacobie Adriaanse, Ruan Dreyer, Johannes Jonker, Dylan Smith