JOHANNESBURG – Every team has them - the grafters, the guys who make few headlines. They just go about their business, with little fanfare, but take them out of the team and they’re missed. The Lions have a number of these “team players”, the guys who help make up the “brotherhood”. Here we highlight four Lions players who don’t always get the recognition they deserve, but who will play a crucial role in tomorrow’s Super Rugby semi-final against the Waratahs at Ellis Park
The almost veteran centre has made the Lions No 13 jersey his own in the last few years and while he hardly gets spoken about as an international player anymore he is one of the most consistent centre performers in the country. He’s not flashy, does everything expected of a seasoned outside centre, and plays a huge role in putting the Lions backs on the front foot.
Defensively he’s very sound and will be key in trying to stop the likes of Kurtley Beale, Curtis Rona and Israel Folau from breaching the Lions defence tomorrow. A solid, hugely influential operator if ever there was one.
When the one-season Bok scrumhalf was injured earlier this year, and missed several matches for his team, the Lions simply were not the same outfit. Team management turned to the likes of Dillon Smit, Marco Jansen van Vuren and even brought in Nic Groom, but Cronje remains the best of the bunch.
He seldom produces headline grabbing performances but he’s Mr Reliable; always quick to the ruck and with his swift service he allows his backs space and time to get onto the front foot. His showdown with Nick Phipps will go a long way in determining who comes out on top.
It’s been a quite stunning season for the former Bulls man. The lock’s hard graft in the tight-loose often goes unnoticed, but it allows the likes of Franco Mostert and Co space and time to roam and get their hands on the ball.
But the 25-year-old has also become a key man in the lineouts where, along with Mostert, he’s taken plenty of good ball to help set up those almost unstoppable driving mauls, and he’s helped make the lineout the best in the competition. Another big test awaits the now Bok lock against Rob Simmons and Jed Holloway tomorrow.
It’s quite astonishing that the 27-year-old England-bound tight-head is no longer in the national selection picture. He has consistently been one of the best No 3s in Super Rugby and continues to be the cornerstone of the very successful Lions scrum. Few teams have bettered, or beaten, the Lions in the set-piece in recent years and Dreyer has got everything to do with that success.
He’s also pretty handy in the tight-loose, as ball-carrier, and makes a good number of tackles, too, during the time he’s on the field. The Tahs’ Tom Robertson won’t be looking forward to their scrum battle.