Young Lions centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg has all the makings of a star, writes Jacques van der Westhuyzen. Photo by: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

HIS name’s on every Lions fans lips at the moment.

Rohan Janse van Rensburg, pictured bottom, is the talk of the town after his powerful displays in recent weeks for the Super Rugby semi-finalists, and put him next to Lionel Mapoe, pictured middle, and the Lions centre combination is, statistically, the best in the competition.

Between them they’ve scored 18 tries, more than any other midfield duo, both crossing the whitewash on nine occasions. Janse van Rensburg and Mapoe have been a revelation as a combination this season and on Saturday they get another opportunity to show off their talents when they come up against an equally formidable duo in Malakai Fekitoa and Matt Faddes of the Highlanders. The teams square off in the semi-finals at Ellis Park.

It promises to be a key battle, with the visiting duo not far behind in the try-scoring stakes, Faddes especially catching the eye this season with nine tries to his name. Interestingly, it is a combination that shows a lot of similarity to the Lions pairing, with Mapoe and Fekitoa international centres looking to establish themselves in the Test arena, while Janse van Rensburg and Faddes still have dreams of representing their countries.

It is Janse van Rensburg though who has stolen the attention this season, the 21-year-old grabbing his chance in the Lions No 12 jersey.

Lions boss Johan Ackermann and his assistants are full of praise for the 1.86m, 100kg powerhouse, but they all feel the former SA Schools and SA Under-20 midfielder has some learning to do before he can be classified the finished product.

“He’s grown tremendously in the last year ... after working very hard on certain aspects of his game,” said Ackermann after another sensational showing against the star-studded Crusaders last weekend. “He took his chance when Harold Vorster got injured and yes, the fact is he’s very dangerous with ball in hand.”

Swys de Bruin, the attack coach of the Lions, added: “He’s an exciting player, certainly one of the best at his age I’ve seen. I’ve coached a lot of good centres, but not specialist inside centres like him ... he’s big and strong and very fast. He’s a playmaker and a strike runner and that’s what makes him special.

“But, he’s a raw product and there are aspects of his game he still needs to work on and improve. But he doesn’t have any fear in him and that’s crucial for a No 12 ... he relishes his role, it’s a physical one, to get good go-forward.”

Lions defence coach JP Ferreira, who saw Janse van Rensburg grow up in Pretoria, also feels the bulky centre has the makings of a great. “If this is the potential he is showing on the big stage, in his first season of Super Rugby ... and we can mould him a bit, he’ll be a special player. Games like these, against strong opposition, will boost him and give him experience ... He’s got some way to go, but he’s special.”

The former Bulls junior player, who moved to Joburg from Pretoria at the beginning of last season after being shifted to the back of a long centre queue, has certainly flourished at the Lions. He wasn’t the first choice No 12 at the start of the season, but now it seems the likes of Howard Mnisi and Vorster, when he’s fit again, will have their hands full trying to dislodge Janse van Rensburg.

Heck, even national coach Allister Coetzee will be hard pressed to ignore the strapping Lions man ... Janse van Rensburg may not be the finished product just yet, but he’s the real deal and will play Test rugby sooner rather than later. - The Star