Wolf returns to Lion’s den
Though sides are poles apart, Britz is excited to take on old teammates
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.