Johannesburg - With Franco Mostert gone and Lourens Erasmus on the sidelines with injury, the news that Springbok and Sharks lock Stephan Lewies had chosen to join the Lions in the off-season couldn't have come at a better time for the Johannesburg franchise.
And Lewies, finding his career at a bit of a stalemate, couldn’t have chosen for a better offer to get him out of his comfort zone than joining up again with his under-19 coach Swys de Bruin, who is head coach of the Lions nowadays.
Lewies, who played one Test against Scotland in 2014, told SuperSport.com he was looking forward to getting out of his comfort zone in Johannesburg.
"I think I'd been with the Sharks for eight years. I left school here (in Pretoria) and then went there for eight years and it just felt at this stage I wasn't getting any better, I was staying the same.
"And to work with new coaches and in a new environment, just to meet new players, it was a good opportunity for me to grow as a person and as a player, so that’s why.
"Swys coached me a bit at under-19s and that obviously helps, knowing the coach and knowing how he works, and how he thinks out of the box. I enjoy the type of game he coaches and the type of game plan I think suits me, the way Swys coaches. It definitely made a difference," the 27-year-old said.
Lewies has been impressed by the changes at the Lions in the last few years, and it certainly played a part in his decision to return to Gauteng.
"When I started my senior rugby career - at age group rugby it was always tough playing the Lions, they always had good guys coming through. And then made my senior debut in 2013 in the Currie Cup - at that stage you always fancied yourself in beating the Lions in 2013 and 2014. And then it changed drastically.
"The Sharks struggled to beat them over the last few games and what they did at this union is magnificent. The hard work they put in here it talks for itself."
The loss of players like Mostert has opened a door for Lewies and one he is looking forward to exploiting.
"With those 'okes' leaving it leaves the door open for youngsters. When you think to the Lions in the past, it was all players coming from all over, and sometimes people say it's the players other unions didn't want - and all those players became Springboks.
"It speaks for the coaches here, the way they work with players here, and the way they make you a better player to fit into the team. I think that definitely is something for every player that inspires them to play better - working with coaches like that. I just want to add value to the team and play well while I’m here."
While this Sunday will see the Lions experimenting a lot more against the Sharks in the Superhero Sunday games at Cape Town Stadium, Lewies is hoping to add a bit more confidence to his game right now.
"We are just focusing on our own game. We implemented a lot of new stuff - everything is new for me, but I understand from the others that there is a lot of new stuff. Obviously you have to change to keep growing. So just to test the new stuff and take it from the training ground onto the field, and see where we have to improve.
"I think just confidence, and every player when they play with confidence they do well. I think in the last two years I lacked a bit of confidence and already I’ve got some confidence back playing under coach Swys. Playing with confidence is something I will work on and in all areas, that 1% getting better. My fitness has improved immensely already and that is the one area I’ve really been trying to improve. If you have to play in this game plan you have to be fit and that is probably the biggest area for me."
The Lions are yet to name their team for the clash against the Sharks.
Sunday's game is scheduled for 14:00.
15 Lwazi Mvovo, 14 S'bu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Dan du Preez, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Juan Schoeman
Substitutes: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 Khutha Mchunu, 19 JJ van der Mescht, 20 Luke Stringer, 21 Wian Vosloo, 22 Phepsi Buthelezi, 23 Cameron Wright
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