Kwagga in line to cross over, claim cov­eted Lions’ seven jer­sey

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - JAC­QUES VAN DER WESTHUYZEN

WHO’LL knock down the door and grab hold of the Lions No 7 jer­sey this sea­son?

That’s the big ques­tion fol­low­ing the sur­prise re­tire­ment from rugby of War­wick Teck­len­burg, the man who formed part of the for­mi­da­ble Lions loosetrio last sea­son. Teck­len­burg has opted to go farm­ing, mean­ing his No 7 jer­sey is up for grabs. But who’ll fill the void left by the hard-work­ing blind­side flank and join War­ren White­ley and Jaco Kriel in the back-row? Well, coach Jo­han Ack­er­mann will get a first look at who could po­ten­tially fill Teck­len­burg’s spot when a young Lions team take on the Bulls in Harare on Satur­day. Turn­ing out in that game, in what will be the union’s first hit-out of the sea­son, are Wiehan Ja­cobs, Hacji­vah Dya­mani, Jano Ven­ter and Vic­tor Sekekete.

Only Sekekete, who fea­tured in last year’s Cur­rie Cup com­pe­ti­tion, is likely to come into the reck­on­ing for Su­per Rugby, with Ack­er­mann more likely to turn to some far more ex­pe­ri­enced cam­paign­ers.

First in line is likely to be the coach’s young son, Ruan.

The 21-year-old burst onto the scene at the start of last year and by the end of 2017 was one of the Lions’ finds of the year.

A ver­sa­tile player who can play in the sec­ond row, at seven and eight in the back-row Ack­er­mann is not only a qual­ity line-out jumper, he’s also a strong ball-car­rier and doesn’t shy away from putting in the tack­les.

Next in the queue are Cyle Brink and Kwagga Smith,

Both men fea­tured in Su­per Rugby and the Cur­rie Cup last sea­son and have shown they be­long at Su­per Rugby level.

Brink was dev­as­tat­ing at times, even though he is first and fore­most a No 6, while Smith, also a No 6, has all the skills and heart needed to suc­ceed at Su­per Rugby level. His Sevens skills will stand him in good stead. And, let’s not for­get he’ll be avail­able for most of the com­pe­ti­tion af­ter only com­mit­ting to play four Sevens tour­na­ments this year.

Three play­ers who would have come into the reck­on­ing, too, to fill Teck­len­burg’s spot are Ruaan Lerm, Steph de Wit and Der­ick Min­nie, but they have all moved on and are no longer con­tracted to the Lions. Lerm has joined the Pu­mas, De Wit is with the Storm­ers and Min­nie is a free agent look­ing to fur­ther his ca­reer over­seas.

Robert Kruger is still on the Lions’ books and will hope to get a proper look-in over the com­ing months and so, too, Fabian Booy­sen, both men hav­ing fea­tured reg­u­larly for the Lions in re­cent years with­out get­ting an ex­tended run.

Ack­er­mann sr has some tough choices to make be­fore the Su­per Rugby com­pe­ti­tion gets un­der way, find­ing a part­ner for cap­tain White­ley and live wire No 6 Kriel will be top of his list-of-thingsto-do. Af­ter the Harare match, the Lions play the Bar­bar­ians – pre­dom­i­nantly a com­bined club team – at El­lis Park on Fe­bru­ary 4. They’ll also face the Storm­ers at New­lands on Fe­bru­ary 11.

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