Lions 'have enough' experience
Cape Town - Golden Lions lock Wikus van Heerden feels they have enough experience heading into their Currie Cup final against the Sharks at Coca-Cola Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.
Some pundits have labelled the men from Johannesburg as too young and inexperienced to take on the star-studded Sharks line-up, but Van Heerden begs to differ.
The 32-year-old - who made a remarkable transformation from flank to lock this year - has more than 250 first class matches under his belt and told the Beeld newspaper they are beyond their learning phase now.
"It's something we have talked about. We're not necessarily such a young team anymore and are already past the whole grooming process," said Van Heerden.
Van Heerden is the only survivor from the Lions team which lost to the Blue Bulls in their last Currie Cup final at home, in 2002.
However, four others in their 22-man squad have played for other unions in Currie Cup finals. They are Butch James (Sharks), CJ van der Linde and Alwyn Hollenbach (both Free State Cheetahs) and Bandise Maku (Blue Bulls). The only players in their squad under the age of 24 are: Jaco Taute (20), Elton Jantjies (21), Martin Bezuidenhout (22) and Michael Rhodes (23).
Van Heerden, Van der Linde, Cobus Grobbelaar and James are all 30 years or older, with Doppies la Grange and Deon van Rensburg slightly younger.
Coach John Mitchell also feels the squad is now experienced enough to perform on the biggest of stages.
"As a group we learned a variety of lessons early on and that aids us now. I think the group has become mature and there is a greater team unity. It also helps when the same personnel (coaching staff) and methods are used to keep continuity," said Mitchell.
Van Heerden did, however, also warn that experience could only count up to a certain point in games like finals. "It's about the team. All the experienced guys need to do their bit. In a final, the team who's the hungriest for a win, triumphs. I'm going to give it my absolute best."
15 Jaco Taute, 14 Deon van Rensburg, 13 Doppies la Grange, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Michael Killian, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Joshua Strauss (captain), 7 Michael Rhodes, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Wikus van Heerden, 3 Patric Cilliers, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 CJ Van der Linde
Substitutes: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Jacobie Adriaanse/JC Janse van Rensburg, 18 Warren Whiteley, 19 Cobus Grobbelaar/Jaco Kriel, 20 Butch James, 21 Dylan des Fountain, 22 James Kamana
15. Patrick Lambie, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Stefan Terblanche, 12. Marius Joubert, 11. JP Pietersen, 10. Frederic Michalak, 9. Conrad Hoffmann, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Keegan Daniel (captain), 5. Ross Skeate, 4. Jean Deysel, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16. Craig Burden, 17. Eugene van Staden, 18. Alistair Hargreaves, 19. Marcell Coetzee, 20. Ross Cronje, 21. Adrian Jacobs, 22. Lwazi Mvovo