EW Viljoen ready for Bulls' Bok challenge
It’s not often that a promising youngster has the opportunity to play directly opposite seasoned Test veterans‚ but that’s exactly the scenario facing Stormers centre EW Viljoen.
The highly-rated 22-year-old will come up against Bok stalwarts Jan Serfontein and Jesse Kriel when the Stormers meet the Bulls at Loftus on Saturday.
The Bulls duo have 29 and 19 Test caps respectively‚ which is more than Viljoen’ 14 Super Rugby caps.
Although the outcome of the clash is not vital as the Stormers are already into the play-offs‚ it could be a good dress rehearsal for next weekend’s Super Rugby quarterfinal‚ when they will meet either the Chiefs or the Hurricanes.
Viljoen‚ who has racked up impressive numbers this season‚ is also honing his midfield partnership with the fit again Damian de Allende.
The latter has been out for the most of the campaign with various injuries.
If the duo are chosen together to face the Bulls‚ it will be only their third start in tandem this year despite the fact that Viljoen has started 13 of the team’s 14 matches this season.
Viljoen has made seven tackle turnovers‚ 132 ball carries (for 954 metres) and scored four tries‚ which all rank in the tournament’s top 10 in each category.
Added to that he has made seven line breaks and four tackle busts and it’s clear he has had an impressive debut campaign.
But the challenges will keep coming in the next two weeks.
“It’s something I am looking forward to‚" Viljoen of the challenge of coming up against Serfontein and Kriel.
"I am going to approach this game just like I have approached the other games throughout the competition. But‚ I am definitely looking forward to playing against Jesse and Jan if they are playing.
"I got lots of respect for them. They are some of the best centres in the world and it is something to look forward to.”
Viljoen will also have to look over his shoulder with veteran Juan de Jongh back to fitness and likely to feature on the bench this weekend and Scotland centre Huw Jones training at full capacity this week.
Coach Robbie Fleck will be tempted to start De Jongh in the crucial play-off given his experience‚ but that’s not something Viljoen is focused on at the moment. "I definitely want to be first-choice.
"It is something I am personally working on‚ but there are always aspects of my game that I can work on.”