The union recently took big hits with the loss of hooker Malcolm Marx, wing/fullback Tyrone Green, flyhalf Shaun Reynolds and No 8 Ruan Vermaak, on top of the previous departures of centres Lionel Mapoe and Harold Vorster, wing Ruan Combrinck and eighthman Kwagga Smith.
With the Lions subsequently embarking on a strong recruitment drive, roping in seven new players, we take a closer look at their list of recent signings, and what each player is expected to offer as they aim to turn their season around.
Ruan Dreyer (prop)
The 29-year-old star played four Tests for the Springboks in 2016 and 80 Super Rugby games for the Lions before moving north in 2018. But after playing just seven games for Gloucester due to a torn Achilles, from which he has since fully recovered, he has returned to start a second chapter with the Lions and will provide valuable experience and iron in the team’s tight five.
Jaco Visagie (hooker)
One of four Bulls players to have joined the Lions during the national lockdown, he has previously turned out in 53 Super Rugby games and 38 Currie Cup matches. The 28-year-old player also represented Gloucester in seven matches last season and will now challenge Pieter Jansen and another former Bulls player, Jan-Henning Campher, for the No 2 jumper.
Wiehahn Herbst (prop)
The veteran tighthead comes to the Lions from the Bulls after just one season, but he is vastly experienced, having previously played 52 Currie Cup games and 40 Super Rugby matches for the Sharks, as well as 80 games for Ulster. The 32-year-old front rower will add significant depth to the No 3 position, along with former Bok prop Jannie du Plessis and rising star Carlu Sadie.
EW Viljoen (centre)
The 25-year-old utility back carries a strong reputation after playing 37 Super Rugby games for the Stormers and 29 Currie Cup matches for Western Province. Despite battling with injury, he also earned four caps for the Leicester Tigers after joining the English side last year. Having since turned down an offer from Jake White to join the Bulls, he will challenge Wandisile Simelane for the No 13 jersey, while he can also play at fullback and wing.
Rabz Maxwane (wing)
After playing eight games for Western Province in 2016, eight matches for the Bulls in 2017, and 28 fixtures for the Cheetahs since then – where he scored 19 tries and was the top try-scorer in the Pro14 in the 2018/19 season – he has been overlooked since Hawies Fourie took over as Cheetahs coach from Franco Smith. While injury may have stunted his progress with the Free State side, however, the 24-year-old player is now gearing up to challenge Courtnall Skosan for the No 11 jersey.
Burger Odendaal (centre)
The 27-year-old Odendaal captained the Bulls earlier this year and boasts real experience after playing 50 Currie Cup games and 56 Super Rugby matches for the Pretoria side. A former Monnas High School head boy, who played Craven Week for the Lions in 2011 before crossing the Jukskei, he has returned to his roots.
Divan Rossouw (fullback)
The Namibian born fullback left Loftus for the Lions at the start of the lockdown. Having played at outside centre in his youth, he moved to No 15 when he joined the Bulls in 2015. Having played 16 Currie Cup games since 2016 and 27 Super Rugby matches since 2018, the 24-year-old player has embarked on a new chapter in his career.