Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town - Sometimes you wonder how Franco
Mostert feels when he hears mutterings like “there’s a shortage of No 5 locks
for the Boks this year”.
It is difficult to believe it sits too comfortably
... but then again the Lions’ second-row workhorse extraordinaire also seems
one of those uncomplaining warriors of Super Rugby and Currie Cup trench
He is the proverbial good employee who
never throws a sickie. Heck, it is possible he’s never even asked for a pay
rise. He just gets on with it, as they say.
The Lions have been the feel-good, underdog
story of the SA conference this season, even if they came up just short after a
great crack at the playoffs cut.
They will be the only team experiencing a
rather cruel last-round bye this week, which may even do them the injustice of
their current seventh position overall turning to eighth if the once-legendary Crusaders
get a good result against the Brumbies and bump them down a notch.
But boy, will the Lions have earned their
break, regardless of their eventual placing.
Nobody can take away what a passionate,
often high-quality tournament they have had, one that only ended with them
bashing away furiously at the conference-winning Stormers’ line at Newlands to
try to turn the 19-19 stalemate into another famous triumph.
And to think this writer had had the
temerity to suggest the Lions’ legs might finally buckle in the derby under the
strain of over-play - most notably in the case of someone like Mostert - in the
Instead it was a sea of Stormers bodies
lying strewn about the in-goal area at full-time after several minutes of
necessary, herculean defence to clinch the local spoils.
Impressive coach Johan Ackermann had
admitted at least a fortnight ago that some of his staple pack personnel – with
skipper Warren Whiteley and Mostert probably the closest to over-heating – were
badly overdue for a break which he simply couldn’t offer them as their first-time
finals series chase gathered steam.
Instead the collective, eye-catching
conditioning and stubborn resolve of the Lions showed absolutely no signs of
wavering right up to their confirmed, plucky “KO” as contenders at Newlands.
Throughout the season, the 24-year-old,
Welkom-born Mostert has been a bastion of reliability for the Jo’burgers.
He is not “flash”, as he perhaps lacks the
levels of pure athleticism commanded by the likes of veteran Victor Matfield
and currently absent young heir apparent to the Springbok No 5 shirt,
Pieter-Steph du Toit.
But in terms of Super Rugby performance in
2015 that is his only crime, for want of a better word.
If he often seems less visible or
wow-inducing than others in open play, it is only because he does so much of
his tireless donkeywork at unglamorous, close quarters, helping to earn those
smaller yards that often tilt tight rugby matches in the final analysis.
Mostert is never far from a ruck clean-out,
seldom absent when an in-field enemy sniper unwisely fancies a crack at the
Lions’ first-line defence, and often at the very fulcrum of their diesel-engined
Nor is he any slouch at the lineout, where
he consistently bags his own ball and will sometimes either poach or vitally spoil
possession on the rival hooker’s throw.
Maybe his vital statistics aren’t deemed
sufficiently striking for international purposes: he stands just below the
two-metre mark and his weight is variously given as 104kg or 110kg, with the
truth possibly lying somewhere in between.
That said, he wouldn’t be the leanest rake
ever to wear a Bok lock jersey - remember 51-cap Albert van den Berg? - and
Mostert anyway seems every bit a heavyweight in a cruiserweight’s body.
There are certain in-your-face, enforcer
qualities about him, and if could earn public praise from a certain Bakkies
Botha a couple of years back, you are hardly painting a picture of a shrinking
Nor can Mostert be the worst of
scrummagers, when you consider that the Lions held their own sturdily in that
department to end a gung-ho series of notably dominant showings from the
Stormers against other foes.
The guy just goes and goes ... chew for a
second on the remarkable statistic that he has apparently played 1,270 of the
1,280 minutes (16 matches) used in total by the Lions.
Mostert is also bubbling under the current
tournament top 10s in key areas: for example, he has made 143 tackles, which
places him a mere one outside that exclusive club, won 38 lineouts (three short
of top-10 recognition) and made 123 carries.
A survivor in 2013 of a serious motor
accident, you might say there are similarities to another frenzied competitor
in Schalk Burger for having stared death in the face and resisted it; you can
only suspect it enhances any feeling of invincibility on a rugby field.
Dearth of Test-calibre No 5s?
the Boks could do a lot worse than examine the many strengths - not least of
them an all-important stout heart and unfailing stamina - of Franco Mostert if
an hour of need arises.
Mostert has not yet been deemed necessary
to requirements in two, 44-man training Bok training camps in his own base camp
of the Big Smoke, and then more recently Cape Town.
Perhaps there is still time for a change of
heart from Heyneke Meyer, who will have witnessed Mostert only raising his
personal game further since his snubbing from those groups.
You’d have expected absolutely nothing less
from this Trojan character.
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