Johannesburg – The Golden Lions have entrusted the number-10 jersey to the 20-year-old Jaco van der Walt for their second-round Currie Cup match against the Eastern Province Kings at Ellis Park on Saturday.
Van der Walt has been named as replacement for star flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff, who was ruled out for up to 12 weeks after fracturing his right arm in the weekend’s 41-13 victory over the Blue Bulls.
Lions coach Johan Ackermann said although Boshoff’s injury was a major blow to their campaign, he could be back sooner than initially thought.
“He is a match winner on his own, he can drop, kick and place, and he is a quality player that is in great form and played with great confidence,” Ackermann said at the team announcement on Thursday in Johannesburg.
“But the good news is that he might be back sooner than we thought maybe we can get him back if we make the playoffs.”
Ackermann said Boshoff’s injury was a golden opportunity for Van der Walt to make the step-up to senior rugby.
“This is an opportunity for Jaco van der Walt to get that exposure sooner than we had in mind but it is now time for him to grab that jersey and make it his,” he said.
“He is a good kid, he’s got the pedigree, what helped him was the fact that he didn’t play under-19 rugby last year he jumped straight into under-21 rugby. That gave him a lot of confidence and we told him that with Elton Jantjies going he will get exposure at senior level.”
Van der Walt’s selection was the only change to the run-on side that will take on the Kings that lost their first match last weekend against Western Province in Port Elizabeth.
Guy Cronje has been drafted into the match-day 22 where he would provide cover for Van der Walt off the bench.
Springbok Sevens sensation Kwagga Smith could also make his Currie Cup debut playing off the bench.
Ackermann said while they made an emphatic start to the season they were looking for more improvements they wanted to make in their game plan.
“We are happy with the style that we play and we’ve grown, there are little tweaks that we want to make and we want to improve the way we want to play”.
“The process is that it is a home game and we need to win that if we want to keep the momentum. We don’t want to lose a home game because you have to make it up somewhere else.”
Lions team: Andries Coetzee, Lionel Mapoe, Stokkies Hanekom, Harold Vorster, Ruan Combrinck, Jaco van der Walt, Ross Cronje, Warren Whiteley (captain), Derick Minnie, Jaco Kriel, Franco Mostert, MB Lusaseni, Ruan Dreyer, Robbie Coetzee, Schalk van der Merwe
Replacements: Armand van der Merwe, Jacques van Rooyen, Willie Britz, Warwick Tecklenburg, Guy Cronje, Kwagga Smith, Howard Mnisi. – Sapa