Lions coach John Mitchell knows he needs quality depth for the brutal Super Rugby season and is determined to nurture it himself as there is 'nothing to buy out there'.
After storming to Currie Cup victory last year and beating full strength Sharks and Western Province teams in the knock-out stages, the Lions are expected to improve on their Super Rugby showing which saw them end last season in 14th place.
However, the step up from Currie Cup to Super Rugby level is a serious one and although the Lions have forged a competitive starting combination it is perhaps the quality of their back-up that will determine whether they progress as a Super Rugby outfit.
Mitchell used the pre-season match against the Stormers at Newlands on Friday to blood a host of young players off the bench which he believes was vital as they will no doubt be called upon at some stage this season when the inevitable injuries take their toll.
He told this website: "They will be critical at some stage, there will always be injuries but that is with the gods I guess. You have just got to make sure that you have got guys prepared.
"We gave two Under-19 boys an opportunity who have obviously got the potential to go on and play for their country and I am a big believer in closing that mental window for them very quickly.
"They are now under no illusions about what this level of rugby will be like if they are presented with an opportunity," said Mitchell.
The Lions boss has never been afraid to give promising young players an opportunity to make the step up as he would rather develop his own talent rather than waste money on has-beens looking for one last pay-day.
"I am big on youth, there is nothing to buy out there reputation-wise. Why spend money on rubbish? I would rather bring youth through our system and develop them and nurture them.
"My confidence in bringing young players through has been a big part of my coaching career and is certainly something that I will continue to do," he said.
Mitchell said that the Lions would continue to play their attractive style of rugby, using the width of the pitch as much as possible as they seek to please the crowd and achieve consistent results.
He said: "Nothing will change in the way we play our football, we obviously will use the whole 70 metres of the field once we are a bit sharper.
"In attack that has always been a pretty constant in our game, we will obviously become more physical in our tackles as we get closer to the competition.
"It is important that we excite our fans in the southern hemisphere and we will fight with our lives to win our conference," pledged the Lions coach.
By Michael de Vries
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