Lion cub hungry for action

New Lions recruit Michael Killian is targeting tomorrow’s friendly against the Bulls as a potential springboard to the Super 14.

Loffie Eloff has preached extensively on the virtues of investing in young talent since assuming the head coach’s role in 2006. The Lions mentor told this website at the end of last year he did not believe in buying big names and was determined to develop the better players locally.

On the brink of his second Super Rugby season, Eloff admitted he was very excited about one player in particular. He was reluctant to talk up Killian before he played, and could only say he saw potential in the 24-year-old former EP Elephants flyhalf. However, with frontline pivot Andre Pretorius ruled out of the competition, Killian may well enter the Super 14 picture sooner than expected.

“I’ve been handed a great opportunity and all I can do now is go out and give 100%,” Killian told keo.co.za. “Andre’s injury is a major loss. He’s such an important player, and his experience as a Springbok is invaluable. But his injury has slightly opened the door for me. I have the opportunity, and my inclusion could depend on how I play against the Bulls tomorrow.”

Killian will play for the Lions B team against the Bulls on Thursday night. His performance in this fixture will also determine if he features in the subsequent warm-ups and whether he makes the final squad of 30.

Born in Uitenhage, Killian came through the EP ranks first representing the U19 side in 2002. Flyhalf is his preferred position although he spent the majority of his tenure at fullback. Eloff has said he will play in his natural position, something that sits well with Killian who can switch quite easily between a direct and expansive approach.

“I do prefer flyhalf and have played a lot of my club rugby and for SA Universities in this position,” he said. “I’m a bit of a mixed bag really, I do enjoy a free-flowing game and do take the odd risk, but I’m also quite happy to play a kicking game.

“I think this fits in with the kind of game the Lions are playing at the moment, especially under the new laws. Louis Strydom is our No 1 flyhalf and he had a fantastic Currie Cup. He is also capable of playing both direct and wide.”

It’s been a lot to absorb for Killian, who until four months ago only dreamed of playing at a higher level.

“I never had a pre-existing relationship with Loffie. He gave me a call last September and it all came as quite a shock, as I hadn’t even heard that he was interested.”

Strydom is Eloff’s first-choice flyhalf, while Earl Rose and Jaco van Schalkwyk are also options although have not enjoyed significant game time of late at first receiver. If Killian shines in Thursday’s practice match, Eloff will have a further option should the Lions run into any more injury trouble at 10.

Every prospective player dreams of going up against their heroes, and Killian is no different.

“If I do make the squad, I’d really like to have a crack at the Crusaders,” he said. “You always want to judge yourself against the best, and going up against Dan Carter would be a great challenge.

“Locally, I look forward to facing the Sharks. They play an exciting brand of rugby which would be another good test for me.”

By Jon Cardinelli