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