Mnisi on his rise at Lions
Johannesburg - Lions centre Howard Mnisi is one of the exciting talents coming through the ranks in South African rugby.
The Lions played their first Super Rugby warm-up game, with two squads facing Pukke and the Leopards over the weekend. Both teams did well as they prevented the opposition from scoring, while the players showed great attacking intent, despite the difficult playing conditions.
Head coach Johan Ackermann noted Mnisi as one of the star performers on the field. The 25-year-old made a big impact on attack and defence as the team's attacking brand of rugby complements his individual strengths.
"It was a great first hit-out for the boys. We managed to deliver on the objectives we set for ourselves," Mnisi told MyPlayers.co.za. "The players are looking great. It's exactly what we needed as we look to play to our full potential during Super Rugby this season.
"We're not trying to put too much pressure on ourselves. We'll definitely take it one game at a time. Our main goal for the season is to improve on the achievements we accomplished last year. We'll be very happy if there's notable growth."
It's been an exciting journey for Mnisi in recent years. After two years of Under-18 Craven Week campaigns with the Pumas in 2006 and 2007, he spent his junior years at the Sharks between 2008 and 2011.
He then used the Varsity Cup as a platform to showcase his talents with the Madibaz (NMMU), which attracted interest from Griquas, who offered a provincial contract. He then got his first taste of Super Rugby with the Cheetahs before joining the Lions for the 2014 Currie Cup campaign.
"I've enjoyed my career so far. It's been an interesting ride," Mnisi said. "The move to the Lions offered me more opportunity to play Super Rugby, which I'm really enjoying.
"The competition challenges you as you play against some of the world's top players. I enjoy this challenge."
Mnisi's main goals in the near future are to perform consistently for the Lions while he hopes to achieve national honours too.
"I'm working very hard on my game. Two areas I am focusing on is my communication at centre and creating opportunities for those on my outside, playing a role as a second 10," said Mnisi. "I'm also enjoying the Lions brand of rugby. I enjoy the offload plans we have on attack, while I pride myself on hard and physical defence.
"In the short-term, I hope to do very well for the Lions. And as any player, I hope to become a Springbok one day. But that won't come easy and I have to earn my opportunity... I will take things one day at a time."
And Mnisi has off-field goals too.
"I started my studies during my days at NMMU. I have a year to go to get my qualification in public relations," said Mnisi. "I have a few business opportunities back home that I am currently working on. It's very important to ensure you set the structure to prepare for life after rugby."
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