Lions to face old hands
THE Lions are likely to come up against some rugby stars of the past on their tour of North America in April.
Yesterday tour promoter Willem Strauss said a number of international players had been invited to play for a North American All Stars team in California and Vancouver against the Lions.
Invitations to be part of the sides have been sent to Stefan Terblanche (Boks), George Smith (Wallabies), Todd Clever (US), Shane Williams (Wales), and Jerry Collins, Rico Gear and Mils Muliaina (All Blacks).
Clever, who featured for the Lions in the 2009 Super rugby campaign, is likely to captain the All Stars should he be released by his Japanese club.
"If this tour is a success it could be an annual event," said Strauss. "The teams will be very competitive so we can expect some good rugby. The Lions are also playing a good brand of rugby right now."
The All Stars will be coached by US coach Mike Tolkin in California and Canadian national coach Kieran Crowley will take over the reins in Vancouver.
Lions coach Johan Ackermann confirmed that he would be taking his strongest side on the tour, which is compensation for the team's relegation from this year's Super rugby.
"We will prepare for these games like any other game. This comes at a time where we rarely come together, but we are hoping that when we come back we will be a closer unit. I will take a full-strength 26-man squad," said Ackermann.
Sanzar (South Africa, New Zealand and Australia Rugby) said it intends expanding Super rugby to include teams from North America and Japan. The tour could indicate whether this would be practicable.
"It is by sheer coincidence that Sanzar wants to explore [North America]; maybe it can learn from our experience," said Lions president Kevin de Klerk.