The Lions will welcome back flanker Wikus van Heerden to their side for this weekend’s Super 14 clash with the Reds at Coca-Cola Park.
Van Heerden returned from a stint at Saracens in England a few weeks ago and immediately had a run with the Golden Lions Vodacom Cup squad before the team returned from their overseas tour and will now begin his time at the Lions the only way he likes it – in the deep end.
“It’s a challenge, isn’t it?” Van Heerden said, “and I like challenges, especially the big ones. I started my career at the Lions and it’s time to give something back.”
Van Heerden is certain to be in the starting line-up when coach Dick Muir names his team on Thursday for the clash, but has already seen the difference since his last stint several years ago in the Lions setup.
“I really haven’t been with the team that long, but I can say they are incredibly positive in the team setup and they are very optimistic about the last part of this year’s Super 14. There is a genuine feeling in the team that one win can turn things around for them but they need those small breaks in a game,” Van Heerden added.
“When you are in a team that isn’t winning, it makes it so much harder and you have to work much harder to get things going your way. The refs, the coaches and everyone looks at you differently, but if we can get that first win, then we can start building momentum for the rest of the season.”
Van Heerden concedes that the Lions need to bolster their defence, but says since he has been there; Muir has been working hard on correcting this aspect which has let the Johannesburg side down.
“The team works so hard to score spectacular tries, but then their opposition scores soft tries against them, so it is something we need to rectify,” he adds, “But Dick has spent the last few weeks on the defence and they are working very hard to get the balance right in the team. Hopefully it will be this week against the Reds.”
The former Lions captain made the choice in coming back to South Africa mainly due to his family, but felt Muir’s team was the best place for him to offer something back, especially with the Bulls overflowing with loose forward talent.
“Honestly, I came back mainly for my family,” he quips, “I have two young sons and the climate in England was one of the main reasons. Also when I left the Lions for the Bulls, Kevin de Klerk was one of the guys who came to see me and he was also one of the reasons I came back.
“I also had a chat to Dick when the Springboks were at Saracens last year and it sounded exciting to hear his plans. It sounded like an unbelievable challenge for me at this stage of my career. Since getting back, I’ve seen the talent there is at Vodacom Cup level and the potential is there.”
[Story by Brenden Nel from Supersport.com]