Pieter Jansen has been in Marx’s shadow for the last two years but filled the hooker’s berth in the Currie Cup last year. Photo: @LionsRugbyCo on twitter

JOHANNESBURG – With Malcolm Marx on a sabbatical and playing his rugby in Japan this year the Lions No 2 jersey is up for grabs.

And the man who has his eyes fixed on the jumper is young Pieter Jansen. An ardent fan of Schalk Brits and John Smit, the 24-year-old has been in Marx’s shadow for the last two years but filled the hooker’s berth in the Currie Cup last year. He said yesterday, a week out from the start of the 2020 Super Rugby season, he was ready to make the step up.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor,” said Jansen about Marx. “Malcolm has made such a big impact on world rugby so having him guide me over the last few seasons has been immense. It was phenomenal working alongside him and while his are big boots to fill, I’m hoping to make my own mark on Super Rugby this year.

“I’m looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead. I want to get as much game-time as possible and grow with this young group we have here this year.”

Two other former Lions hookers who’ve moved on - Robbie Coetzee and Akker van der Merwe - also played their part in moulding Jansen. “Yes, of course, they are world class in their own right, and just look at the waves Akker is making overseas. They, too, played a big part in how I’ve developed here and I’m so thankful for that.”

Jansen’s main competition will come from Jan-Henning Campher, who also came through the Lions system last year to feature in the Currie Cup, and Marko Janse van Rensburg. “It’s tough at this level of the game, and you can never take a step back and relax. There’s quality everywhere, and you’ve got to be on your game from the first second. But, strong competition is good, it keeps one on one’s toes and makes one a better player,” said Jansen.

Known as “Piet Piston” by his teammates, the rookie Lions hooker added he was excited about the coming months, with not too many observers giving the Lions much chance of making a big impression in this year’s competition.

“There’s a good mix of youth and experience, and we’ve gained with the likes of Jannie du Plessis coming in, Roelof Smit, Andre Warner and Duncan Matthews joining from the Bulls, and then there are all our promising Under-21 players. I’m excited to see what we’re going to do and what mark we’re going to leave on the competition ... hopefully we take Super Rugby by storm.”

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First up for the Lions next weekend in their opener are the Jaguares in Buenos Aires; a tough start, but Jansen said it was best to tackle the Argentines early in the competition. “I believe it’s best to play the Jaguares early on; there’s no video footage yet to help work out teams, and we’re a bit of a new-look team this year, and no-one’s built up any momentum either. It really comes down to one’s pre-season work, and we always have a good pre-season. Also, everyone’s an unknown factor first up and there’s lots of excitement in the group, which helps.”

The Lions’ final Super Rugby squad will be named today.

@jacq_west

 

The Star

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