Lions backline promises more punch in URC derby against Sharks

Jordan Hendrikse of the Sigma Lions tackled by Johan du Toit and Deon Fourie of the Western Province when playing the Carling Currie Cup at Newlands Stadium

The 22-year-old Jordan Hendrikse (pictured with the ball) returns to the run-on side at flyhalf for the first time in the URC since a mid-November clash against Benetton last year. Picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Mar 2, 2024


Jordan Hendrikse will return to the starting XV today when the Lions host the Sharks in a crucial United Rugby Championship (URC) clash at Ellis Park (kick-off 3pm).

The 22-year-old returns to the run-on side at flyhalf for the first time in the URC since a mid-November clash against Benetton last year. Since then, in the URC at least, head coach Ivan van Rooyen has preferred the half-back pairing of Morne van den Berg in the No 9 jumper and Sanele Nohamba at 10.

The combination has worked for the most part this season, creating a fair bit of excitement regarding both players at a national level, but in the recent loss to the Bulls, it failed to fire the backline into action.

The Lions have clearly also missed the booming boot of Hendrikse, which Nohamba doesn’t possess; and which has resulted in the Joburgers battling to exit their own half through well-placed punts, and losing the territorial battle.

‘More stability’

Hendrikse’s 20-odd minute cameo against the Bulls at flyhalf also brought a bit more stability to the proceedings. His role this weekend will be much changed, as he will be charged with controlling the tempo and game plan, rather than an intense match-ending burst.

Beside Hendrikse, who it was confirmed this week will be off to the Sharks later this year, captain Marius Louw and Henco van Wyk continue their mid-field partnership. With Hendrikse directing the plays, the Lions will hope that they can feed the duo a better-quality attacking ball.

Unleashing Van Wyk and a back three of Edwill van der Merwe, Richard Kriel and Quan Horn was a rarity against the Bulls in the last match that the team played. Indeed, according to Ultimate Rugby, the quartet of players managed only 75 metres, beat two defenders collectively and made no clean breaks.

Earlier this week, defence coach Jaque Fourie insisted that the Lions’ main concern over the last week has been to find balance in attack and defence, with their recent efforts skewed towards the latter. With Nohamba, Hendrikse and Van Wyk in the backline, a more attacking approach seems extremely likely.

Van Wyk, in particular, will find himself under a bit more scrutiny with a recent invitation to attend a Springboks alignment camp next week and a previous outing for SA “A”, reinforcing the belief that he will wear the Green and Gold sooner rather than later.

Against the Bulls, in that most recent 25-10 loss, he was arguably the Lions’ best player. His defensive work, in particular, was quite enjoyable to watch in an otherwise underwhelming outing from his team.

“He is an exciting player,” Fourie agreed, “and he wants to learn all the time. His ability to learn things and then apply what you have said into a game is special. He is going to grow a lot more, and he still has a lot more to learn.

“He is only 22. If you play week-in and week-out against international players with international calibre, you can only get better. He has shown against all the teams that he has played that he is a player for the future.”

In agreement

Louw, standing next to the former Bok great, nodded in agreement.

Said the skipper: “You can get a lot of confidence out of someone who plays so well in his own game and in the way he carries himself within the team.”

Emirates Lions Starting XV: Quan Horn, Richard Kriel, Henco van Wyk, Marius Louw (capt), Edwill van der Merwe, Jordan Hendrikse, Sanele Nohamba, Francke Horn, Ruan Venter, JC Pretorius, Darrien Landsberg, Etienne Oosthuizen, Asenathi Ntlabakanye, PJ Botha, JP Smith. Replacements: Jaco Visagie, Corne Fourie, Conraad van Vuuren, Reinhard Nothnagel, Emmanuel Tshituka, Hanru Sirgel, Morne van den Berg, Erich Cronje.