Wolf re­turns to Lion’s den

Though sides are poles apart, Britz is ex­cited to take on old team­mates

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

ONE Sun­wolves player who’ll be rel­ish­ing the chance of tak­ing on the Lions at El­lis Park this week­end is loose for­ward Wil­lie Britz.

The rest may be won­der­ing what the hell they’re do­ing in Joburg as they pre­pare to take on one of the best sides in the com­pe­ti­tion this year. Af­ter all, the Lions have won 12 of 13 matches, are sec­ond on the over­all Su­per Rugby log and have a bunch of Spring­boks in the ranks.

The dif­fer­ence in class be­tween the teams is clear for all to see – the Sun­wolves have man­aged just one win in 12 out­ings, they’re last in Africa Con­fer­ence 1 and they’ve scored only 30 tries and let in a whop­ping 71.

Britz, how­ever, will be jump­ing up and down at the prospect of tak­ing on the Lions. He’s still mates with many of the play­ers, hav­ing played for the Lions be­tween 2012 and 2014 be­fore opt­ing to re­turn to Bloem­fontein and the Chee­tahs.

Feel­ing he wasn’t get­ting a de­cent chance at the Lions, stand­ing be­hind the likes of War­ren White­ley, Jaco Kriel, War­wick Teck­len­burg, and oth­ers, he headed to the Chee­tahs but in­juries ham­pered his progress there.

The woolly-haired Britz then signed up with the NTT Shin­ing Arcs in Ja­pan and this year joined Ri­aan Viljoen as the only South Africans in the Sun­wolves squad. Stand­ing 1.93m tall and tip­ping the scales at 106kg, Britz is com­fort­able in the back-row and at lock, mak­ing him an ex­tremely use­ful player, es­pe­cially in Ja­pan.

He told the MyPlay­ers web­site ear­lier in the year he was lov­ing turn­ing out in the colours of the Sun­wolves.

“I feel priv­i­leged to be a part of this group. It’s an awe­some squad of men, with so much tal­ent and char­ac­ter. They will fight to the end. The type of rugby we want to play is also the type of game the fans want to see ... good run­ning rugby and great skills and just the en­joy­ment of the play­ers on the pitch, lov­ing ev­ery minute of it.”

Britz be­lieves the fail­ure to have a proper pre-sea­son has cost the team again.

“Last year the whole team and man­age­ment staff were put to­gether three weeks be­fore the sea­son started. Then they had to build up a gameplan and get to know each other … some of the boys didn’t even know all their team­mates’ names be­fore the first game,” ex­plained Britz.

“This sea­son, we faced pretty much the same sce­nario as the man­age­ment was put to­gether a bit ear­lier, but the play­ers only gath­ered 20 days be­fore our first game.”

Britz will be up against sev­eral former team­mates on Satur­day and he’ll be keen to show them a thing or two. One of those men is fly­half El­ton Jan­tjies – Britz’s team­mate at the Shin­ing Arcs in the Ja­panese Top League.

Jan­tjies has en­joyed a stun­ning sea­son with the Lions – and the Boks – some­thing Britz pre­dicted would hap­pen in Fe­bru­ary al­ready. “Ella was amaz­ing for us at the Shin­ing Arcs. He even had a few runouts in the No 12 jer­sey and he played re­ally well,” Britz told MyPlay­ers ear­lier in the year. “I def­i­nitely think that South African fans will see him play some amaz­ing footy this sea­son. He should be one of the in-form fly­halves on the Spring­bok radar.”

Af­ter miss­ing last year’s his­toric first Su­per Rugby game for the Sun­wolves, against the Lions in Tokyo in round one when they lost 26-13, Britz will want to have a say in mat­ters against his former team­mates this week­end. AND AGAIN: Wayde van Niek­erk stands proudly next to his tri­umph af­ter win­ning the 300m race last night.

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