Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Lions boss raves about SA A centre Henco van Wyk: ‘He’s the full package’

The Lions boss believes there are more players in his team who will soon be knocking on the national door.

Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen believes that his side have around 10 players who are worthy of playing for South Africa, at either SA A or Springbok level.

Following the team’s defeat against the Stormers in their United Rugby Championship game at Ellis Park over the weekend, Van Rooyen was asked if he was proud of the three players who had cracked the nod for the SA A squad’s tour of Ireland and England.

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Centre Henco van Wyk, flyhalf Gianni Lombard and scrumhalf Sanele Nohamba were all selected for the tour, however a few players can feel slightly hard-done by having enjoyed strong seasons to date, but in the end missed out.

Lions Boks Lombard
Gianni Lombard is in the SA A team to face Munster and Bristol. Picture: Chris Fairweather/Getty Images

In the end it is an improvement for the Lions, who have not had any representation in the national setup for the past two seasons.

“If I had to be really honest, a year ago we would have had zero (players in the SA A squad). So to get three (players selected) within the first cycle of seven weeks (of the URC) was fantastic. Honestly, I told the guys there are about eight or 10 more sitting in our team room,” said Van Rooyen.

“It’s just that the learnings have to be quick. The passion is there, the execution under pressure will improve as they get more experience. But we are really excited about the core group that is sitting in our team room.

“So it is very nice for three of our guys to get the accolades. That is always because of the team effort … but exciting times for us and next year this time hopefully it could be eight or 10 (players selected).”

Lions Boks Nohamba
Scrumhalf Sanele Nohamba’s good form for the Lions has been rewarded. Picture: Sydney Seshibedi – Gallo Images/Getty Images

Van Rooyen was also asked about the impressive form of marauding centre Van Wyk, who despite the loss against the Stormers on Saturday, was again mightily impressive for the Lions, showing his ruthlessness on defence, while he ran in another superb try, after he scored a similar one against Edinburgh recently.

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“He’s good isn’t he. What I like about him is his character and his willingness to fight. If you can see how much this (result) is hurting him, he is the kind of guy you want in your team. Tough, quick, he’s the full package,” admitted Van Rooyen.

The Lions have had a mixed season so far, suffering three home losses against the Bulls, Ulster and Stormers, but brilliantly won three games away on tour against Ospreys, Cardiff and Edinburgh.

They now have a three week break for the November internationals, before resuming their URC campaign with home games against Dragons and Scarlets at the end of November and start of December and they will be targeting them to get their first home wins of the season.