After years of private battles and time in the shadows, Lukas van Biljon has emerged as the key forward as the Cats gear up for the Super 14.
Frans Ludeke’s two line-ups may have lost both of their warm-up fixtures against the Bulls at Ellis Park, but he would be encouraged by Van Biljon’s work rate and effort.
After the departure of Schalk Brits to the Stormers, Van Biljon is first choice hooker – and whilst the lineouts were shaky on Saturday – he appears to have responded to the added responsbility impressively.
“I’m excited about Lukas,” Ludeke told keo.co.za. “He’s worked his backside off in the pre-season and he’s sorted his private life out. He’s worked hard, he’s fit and I believe his mind is 100% on rugby.
“That’s the thing with coaching, it’s more than just technical instruction. The coaches that achieve things in this game are those that are able to get inside every one of their players’ heads and help in sorting whatever’s troubling them out. I know that Lukas trusts me, and I trust him, and I have no doubt that he will become a strong performer for us throughout the campaign.”
Van Biljon’s improved fitness and attitude were not the only positive to emerge from Saturday’s defeats. Individual performances by Jaque Fourie and Wikus van Heerden were of a predictably high standard, but it was the return of Jannes Labuschagne that was more closely followed.
After such a substantial period on the sidelines, Labuschagne’s competitiveness and fire have not diminished, and he added presence to the Cats’ second row.
“Jannes is gonna make a big difference for us this year,” Ludeke concurred. “He adds a lot of value to the pack. The main thing for him now is getting game fitness, and I’m glad he’s got a fixture under his belt. I’ll be looking to use the remaining warm up games to ensure he’s up to speed in time for the first game with the Stormers. After being out for a while, though, he can be very satisfied by how he’s started.”