Daniel in the Lions’ den

Daniel Muller may be a name unfamiliar to many, but Frans Ludeke believes his story could be one of the most memorable of the year.

Muller, a former Lions’ U21 and Vodacom Cup player, has spent the last three years in New Zealand where he played for NPC side Auckland.

Speaking to keo.co.za, Ludeke asserts that Muller’s return to the Jo’burg franchise is a fair return on the investment made by the Lions.

“I coached Daniel when he was a youngster, and we sent him with Balie Swart to New Zealand because we could see the potential in him and thought his development could be fast-trackde overseas,” Ludeke said. “He managed to get a contract, and now that he’s back he’s a completely different player to the one who left. His growth has been incredible.”

Ludeke highlighted the elements of Muller’s game that are especially impressive.

“His worth ethic and professionalism reflect a stint overseas. He is a specialist tighthead, and has a sound knowledge of the position from playing against the top guys in New Zealand.”

Ludeke has veteran Marius Hurter and Springbok Lawrence Sephaka as his other candidates for jersey 3, meaning that the position regarded by many as critical to any pack’s performance is extremely well-stocked.

Sephaka’s role as utility cover, however, may be a more accurate description than specialist tighthead. Preseason games have seen Sephaka play as loosehead predominantly.

“Jake has Lawrence pencilled in as a tighthead in the back of his mind, so we respect that and will continue to give him game time there. It’s amazing to see how much he’s developed in that position, but obviously we’ll need him to play loosehead as well. Lawrence will start some of the games as loosehead, Pietman [van Niekerk] will start some of the games.

“With our props, it’s safe to say we’ll adopt a horses for courses policy.”