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The Lions opt for flyhalf rookie Jordan Hendrikse

13 May 2021 - 16:15 By liam del carme
The Lions players during the Emirates Lions training session at Johannesburg Stadium on May 06, 2021 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The Lions players during the Emirates Lions training session at Johannesburg Stadium on May 06, 2021 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

The Lions will push 19-year-old Jordan Hendrikse into battle against the Stormers at Ellis Park on Saturday.

The Lions who are having to plug the hole in the Rainbow Cup SA left by Elton Jantjies who is playing in France‚ have opted for Hendrikse ahead of Fred Zeilinga who drops to the bench.

Hendrikse‚ a former Matie‚ has made steady progress since his move north last year. Although he has had a taste of senior rugby‚ the clash against the Stormers is a real shot at breaking out.

Coach Ivan van Rooyen explained Hendrikse's elevation is part of a rotation policy but you also got the sense he is keen to inject some much needed urgency at first receiver. “We are excited to see Jordan and to show him to the world. It helps to have guys like Andre (Warner) and Burger (Odendaal) around him.

“Fred is struggling with a groin that is a bit of a niggle. That is not the reason we went with Jordan. Jordan brings something else for us. He's a nice‚ young‚ big‚ physical 10. He brings a massive right boot. He will bring excitement. He will probably take the ball to the line a little bit. For us it is rotation but it is also a chance for Jordan to make a difference for us‚” said Van Rooyen.

Another significant addition to the side is the return of Willem Alberts‚ albeit from the substitutes' bench.

“It is good to have him back‚” said the coach. “That calf injury is looking good. Now it is a matter of him regaining full fitness.

“We know he is going to bring physicality in the second part of the game. He will bring leadership and calmness. With the younger guys around him on the bench we are excited he will make a difference.”

The Lions‚ much like the Stormers‚ are on the back foot following back-to-back defeats at the start of the Rainbow Cup SA. Being winless sparks debate. “We spoke about it extensively‚” said Van Rooyen. “We did enough to beat the Sharks last week but our errors proved expensive.

“The guys understand the things they are doing wrong and how expensive it is. It's an opportunity for us to change that this week. Both teams will be desperate‚” said Van Rooyen.

Captain Burger Odendaal‚ who is sporting a luxurious Tom Selleck-like moustache‚ also spoke of both teams' heightened sense of urgency.

“Both teams lost narrowly last weekend and both will be desperate to get a win. We spoke in the week about fighting for 80 minutes because you are not going to get a win easily‚” said Odendaal.

He said he does not believe the team has to change much‚ except being more consistent across the 80 minutes.

The Stormers are considering resting star flank Pieter-Steph du Toit in line with work load protocols set by SA Rugby. “A current starting Springbok not playing would be significant‚” said Van Rooyen. “If he is playing it is significant. A player of his calibre will always make a difference when they play. We won't focus on that too much‚ we have enough to focus on.”

Lions team to play Stormers - EW Viljoen; Rabz Maxwane‚ Wandisile Simelane‚ Burger Odendaal (captain)‚ Courtnall Skosan; Jordan Hendrikse‚ André Warner; Francke Horn‚ Vincent Tshituka‚ MJ Pelser; Reinhard Nothnagel‚ Ruben Schoeman; Carlu Sadie‚ Jaco Visagie‚ Sti Sithole. Substitutes: PJ Botha‚ Ruan Dreyer‚ Asenathi Ntlabakanye‚ Willem Alberts‚ Emmanuel Tshituka‚ Morné van den Berg‚ Fred Zeilinga‚ Dan Kriel.