JOHANNESBURG - You would have heard the expression: “Like a good red wine, he gets better with age”. Well, that’s Ross Cronje for you.
The Lions No 9 is certainly getting better and better as the years go by.
Right now he’s on top of his game - a good thing, too, seeing he’s the first choice Springbok scrumhalf and such a key man for the Lions.
And what a role he has to play this weekend when the Crusaders visit Ellis Park for the Super Rugby final.
At 28, there’s not much Cronje still has to learn about the game, or himself, for that matter, and that’s why he is so fully trusted by his coaches.
He knows what they want from him, and he gives it to them. No frills, no fuss.
It has been a long, and at times trying, journey to this point, but it is all working out well for Cronje.
Having joined the Lions from the Sharks in 2012, he initially had to play behind Michael Bondesio and a few others at the Lions, but eventually forced his way into the starting team, only for Faf de Klerk to emerge on the scene and steal his thunder.
It became a battle between Cronje and De Klerk for the No 9 jersey and it’s no secret De Klerk won that fight in 2015.
The former Pumas man stole the show with his energy, his sniping runs and try-scoring feats and became the Bok first choice last season.
An indifferent showing for Allister Coetzee’s team and news that he would be heading to Europe at the end of Super Rugby, opened the door for Cronje to finally get the recognition he has so deserved.
He took every opportunity given to him and just about forced coach Johan Ackermann to throw his rotation policy out the window and pick him.
Cronje’s form in the Super Rugby competition this year has been outstanding from the start and it came as no surprise when, in June, Coetzee dropped De Klerk from the Bok squad in favour of Cronje.
The reasons were simple: Cronje was simply a steadier operator, he was dependable and you knew what you were going to get from him.
Some critics have called him boring - because he’s not as flashy as De Klerk, or as influential as Fourie du Preez - but he does everything asked of him, and more.