JOHANNESBURG – The Lions have turned to one of their own to help guide the young props in the squad ahead of this year’s Super Rugby tournament.
Julian Redelinghuys, the former Springbok No 3 who was forced to retire from the game two years ago after breaking his neck, will help coach the team’s props this season - and ensure the Lions remain one of the strongest and most feared scrumming units in the competition.
The 29-year-old, who worked as a life coach and mentor at the union last season following his decision to call time on his playing career, will work alongside forwards coach Phillip Lemmer in guiding the Lions in 2019.
“It’s great having Jules (Redelinghuys) back with us,” said young and exciting prop prospect Dylan Smith.
“Having all that experience will help a lot. He was a great tighthead in his day, and with a bunch of new props coming into our system, he’ll be able to help them understand our system and what’s needed. It’s going to be a big benefit to us all.”
Indeed, the Lions can no longer rely on the experienced Ruan Dreyer and Jacques van Rooyen to lead the way at scrum-time as both have moved abroad since last season, leaving the three-times finalists a little thin in the prop department.
Besides Smith, who has become a key member of the Lions’ front row group, but has struggled with injury in recent times, head coach Swys de Bruin will look to the likes of new recruits Carlo Sadie and Frans van Wyk, young Johannes Jonker and Sti Sithole, and the veteran Jacobie Adriaanse to lead the charge this year.
Smith, now 24 but a semi-veteran in the side having started his Super Rugby career four years ago at the age of 20, said he was eager to get back to full fitness to show what he can do after a third shoulder injury last year scuppered his 2018 season.
“On and off the field the injuries have taught me a lot about myself in the last three years ... three shoulder surgeries will do that to you. It’s been tough, but it’s made a stronger person mentally.
“I feel I owe myself something so yes, I feel like a champagne bottle waiting to explode,” said Smith.
The burly prop will be back to full fitness in three weeks, in time for the start of 2019 Super Rugby competition. He said the Lions’ challenging start - playing away to the Jaguares, then away to the Stormers, before playing at home against Bulls - would be crucial to their campaign.
“We don’t want to look too far ahead but it’s an important start for us, especially with some big players have left at the end of last year,” he said.
“But we’ve been to three finals and know what it takes in this competition, and also know what we need to do better this time.”@jacq_west