Wikus set for Loftus return
Wikus van Heerden (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg – A former Loftus Versfeld hero will make his make his return to Currie Cup rugby on the field in a Lions jersey on Saturday.
Wikus van Heerden is finally ready to play again after recovering from a broken arm. He will be among the Lions’ substitutes against the Blue Bulls.
The former Springbok flank trained at full throttle with his Lions team-mates on Tuesday for one of the most important matches between these sides in a long time.
Van Heerden broke his arm in the Lions’ last Super 14 game against the Cheetahs this year and the injury repeated itself in his first game back – as a substitute in the Lions’ Currie Cup match against Western Province at Newlands in July.
Since then he has been a spectator.
Van Heerden’s last Currie Cup game at Loftus was when he helped the Bulls win the semifinal against the Free State Cheetahs in 2008.
He played in the 11-51 Super 14 defeat to the Bulls on the field earlier this year.
Van Heerden is returning to a side that is high on confidence following five consecutive victories.
He swopped English club side Saracens for the Lions earlier this year. His return was seen as a move that could help rescue the Lions, though they have regained their pride in style over the past two months.
Van Heerden and another experienced injured Lions flank – Cobus Grobbelaar – suddenly have strong competition to be able to regain their places in the Lions’ loose-trio.
Young loose forwards Derick Minnie, Warren Whiteley, Josh Strauss and Renaldo Bothma have performed very well over the last month and staked their claim.
Van Heerden is not the only former Bull that will return to Loftus on Saturday.
Burton Francis was also a Bulls replacement in the 2008 semifinal and also scored a try for the home side the last time the Lions won at Loftus in the Currie Cup.
Francis trained as Lions flyhalf on Tuesday as they were still holding thumbs that wonderkid Elton Jantjies would be fit.
Apart from an injured toe, Jantjies suffered a grade one tear of his ankle ligaments against Griquas. Even so, he was a spectator at Tuesday’s training session and is expected back on the field again Wednesday.
Doppies la Grange has also recovered from a hamstring injury and will take over the No 12 jersey from Francis.
The result of Saturday’s match may have serious consequences for the Currie Cup campaigns of the two Gauteng sides. The Lions are fourth on 30 points and the Bulls fifth on 29.
A home game against the Lions in the Currie Cup has sometimes been a banana peel for the Bulls in recent years. Both teams have won twice at Loftus Versfeld since 2006.