Sharks’ Lewies leaps up list
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Durban – Only that all-time great jumper Victor Matfield stands in the way of raw Sharks lock Stephan Lewies and supremacy for lineout takes thus far in Super Rugby 2014.
It is a tribute to the strides made by the two-metre beanpole since his enforced, hasty drafting into the starting XV early in the season after highly-rated fellow youngster Pieter-Steph du Toit succumbed to a long-term cruciate ligament injury and probably won’t be seen in action again this year.
Du Toit had been tipped to add substantially later in the season to his initial tally of two Springbok caps achieved on the 2013 end-of-year tour, and some critics were tempted to slightly downgrade the Sharks’ title prospects when he was cruelly laid low in March.
But another young gun in the shape of Lewies, 22, simply slotted in with surprising ease and confidence, making the No 5 slot his own ever since.
Last Saturday, in the team’s landmark, courageous 30-25 triumph over the fancied Crusaders in Christchurch – when the pack was understaffed by at least one man for three-quarters of the contest through Jean Deysel’s red-card offence – Lewies and that beefy 120kg greenhorn of a few months younger, Etienne Oosthuizen, fronted up commendably in the second row to the All Black-laden ‘Saders.
Fitness permitting, they are likely to remain firmly at their posts for the next hurdle, against the Blues at North Harbour Stadium on Friday, as the versatile Willem Alberts will probably operate at No 7 in Deysel’s expected absence and not be considered for lock where he is a capable stop-gap at times.
Alberts played in his third position of the season when he was posted at No 8 against the Crusaders.
According to statistics in the New Zealand Herald, Pretoria-born Lewies, who only started his Currie Cup career with a handful of games last year, soared to second place in the tournament list for lineout grabs on Saturday, when the Sharks’ set-pieces functioned with admirable efficiency considering the depletion in staffing.
He has claimed 53 lineouts, only behind veteran compatriot and Bulls ace Victor Matfield (61), whose team had a bye last weekend.
Just behind Lewies on 52 is Brumbies loose forward and captain Ben Mowen, followed by Jake Schatz of the struggling Reds (44).
South African dominance of the top five is completed with Stormers utility forward Michael Rhodes having claimed 43 grabs, to lie fifth itself.
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