Unsung hero Jacques van Rooyen to lead Lions out on Saturday
The Lions' rags to near riches story is embodied by a man set to play his 50th Super Rugby match in the season opener against the Sharks on Saturday.
As one of the graduate's of the front rankers' school of hard knocks‚ it imbues those close to Jacques van Rooyen with great pride to see him reach the milestone.
"Jacques epitomises what we are about here at the Lions‚" gushed coach Swys de Bruin.
"He came from Police (club)‚ his loyalty‚ he leads our prayer group. It has been great to have him in this system.
"For him to run out in front at the start of the season is great."
The coach knows the value of the player. He gave him two extra weeks off at the end of last season.
"I've rested up well‚" nodded the loose head prop. "I came back in early December for preseason training. Sometimes preseason is tougher than playing‚" Van Rooyen joked.
Van Rooyen has been an unsung hero for the Lions but he increasingly caught the eye last season.
"The bunch of guys who play next to me makes me look good. I'm just privileged to be surrounded by that calibre of player."
As a late bloomer‚ the new 31-year-old found his way to the pro ranks through the back door.
He could be an inspiration for those still plodding along on the club scene.
"I hope so. I'm not sure the unions always look at the club players.
"There's a lot of talented guys out there that don't always get the opportunity to train with the provincial team. At the Lions‚ however‚ we have a system that if they put their hand up they'll get a shot."
The prospect of coming to grips with the Sharks‚ in particular the handful that is Thomas du Toit‚ doesn't daunt him.
"They've always been a good scrummaging pack and they like to maul. It will be a big challenge.
"Thomas du Toit is a big‚ strong boy and it will be a good battle between the two of us‚" Van Rooyen vowed.