Franco Mostert RIS­ING

Bok leg­end Mat­field has only praise for hard work­ing Lions lock ‘per­fect for the job’

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

SOUTH Africa’s new li­ne­out king has ar­rived! There can be no dis­put­ing the fact Franco Mostert has taken the man­tle ab­di­cated by Vic­tor Mat­field as the best No 5 lock in South Africa. And if he con­tin­ues to per­form at the level he’s been at in the last two years there’s ev­ery chance he’ll be as good as Mat­field was on his day.

And even the great for­mer Spring­bok lock agrees that Mostert is on his way to great­ness.

“His work-rate puts him ahead of all the other locks in the coun­try,” said Mat­field yes­ter­day. “And, at 26 he’s only now ma­tur­ing as a player. He will gain more and more con­fi­dence in him­self as a leader now, know­ing he is the man re­spon­si­ble for ev­ery­thing that hap­pens in the pack. I, too, only re­ally came into my own around that age.”

Mostert has been one of the stars of the Lions team of Jo­han Ack­er­mann since join­ing from the Bulls in 2012.

At that stage he was play­ing mainly Var­sity Cup rugby for Tukkies but with some big names stand­ing ahead of him in the lock queue at Lof­tus, he opted to join the Lions – a big gam­ble be­cause he had an idea the team would be rel­e­gated from Su­per Rugby in 2013.

Ack­er­mann, though, knew what po­ten­tial Mostert had and told him he’d get more ga­me­time at the Lions and the rest, as they say, is his­tory. The spe­cial­ist No 5 lock has be­come a Spring­bok, and a starter at that, and a key mem­ber of the Lions.

He showed all his class again on Satur­day when he pinched two line-out throws of the Hur­ri­canes in the Su­per Rugby semi-fi­nal at El­lis Park on Satur­day when the Lions were un­der pres­sure and camped on their own try-line.

The home team would es­cape from that threat and go on to turn the game on its head and win 44-29. They will now face the Cru­saders in Satur­day’s fi­nal.

Mat­field said he al­ways had a sus­pi­cion Mostert would be­come a qual­ity lock op­er­a­tor.

“As a 20-year-old play­ing Var­sity Cup rugby and train­ing with us at the Bulls, I thought he had some­thing special about him ... it was his work-rate that stood out for me.

“There were some who ques­tioned his size, but I was also quite light as a young­ster, and knew that wouldn’t hold him back. And look at him now.”

Mostert doesn’t even hit the two-me­tre mark, stand­ing 1.98m tall and tip­ping the scales at 103kg. But his mo­bil­ity, his strong ball-car­ry­ing and tackle rate make him a stand­out player.

“He just doesn’t stop go­ing, he’s so full of en­ergy,” said Mat­field. “He was out­stand­ing against the Hur­ri­canes and you can see there must be plenty of hard work go­ing into his game off the field.

“To make those steals re­quired in­stinct and know­ing where the ball was go­ing to be thrown ... do­ing qual­ity anal­y­sis on the op­po­si­tion of course helps with your in­stinct.”

Not only has Mostert formed a for­mi­da­ble sec­ond row pair­ing with the un­her­alded, but equally-ef­fec­tive An­dries Ferreira at the Lions, he has also be­come a key man next to Eben Etze­beth in the Bok team. “He is the per­fect man for that job, an out-and­out No 5, who works hard and car­ries strongly ... I can see him be­ing there for a very long time,” said Mat­field.

Satur­day’s chal­lenge will be Mostert’s tough­est of the sea­son, ac­cord­ing to the for­mer Bok star.

“The Cru­saders are a class act and there’s no doubt they have the best line-out in the com­pe­ti­tion. It’s go­ing to be a big chal­lenge,” he said.

With 16 line-out steals – to lead the way in that area of the game – and 49 catches when thrown to him in Su­per Rugby this year, Ack­er­mann knows what a gem he has in Mostert. “He’s come a long way since play­ing Var­sity Cup rugby and get­ting through that se­ri­ous car ac­ci­dent (in 2012). He’s a real leader for us in the pack, a team man and a work horse of note,” Ack­er­mann said on the oc­ca­sion of his 50th Su­per Rugby match in March.

Mostert, like all his team­mates, will hope to pro­duce one more big per­for­mance this week­end ... a Su­per Rugby ti­tle is, af­ter all, on the line.

PIC­TURE: BACKPAGEPIX

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