Lionheart prepares for ‘final’ game

Lions captain Wikus van Heerden has decided to approach tonight’s fixture against the Pumas as if it’s his last.

The inspirational leader of the Jo’burg team admitted that although the situation was not ideal, he is determined to give it his all in Witbank.

“We’ve done well to win the last seven games, but I think that we can look back at those early losses as something that cost us dearly,” he told keo.co.za. “But, yes, it isn’t the best place to be: relying on another team to win so that you can go through to the semis.

“It may seem strange that I am hoping for a win against the Bulls, as I am heading up there next season. But until this year’s competition reaches an end, I’m a Lions man 100 percent.”

The Cheetahs win is meaningless unless the Lions pick up five points against the Pumas. With the wooden spoonists having lost every game in the tournament thus far, conventional wisdom suggests this should be a formality. Van Heerden confirmed that the Lions will take no chances.

“The Pumas are an unpredictable team. They are dangerous in broken play, and if you don’t maintain the structure in your game, they can really hurt you.”

Van Heerden first played for the Lions in the 2001 Absa Currie Cup and graduated to the Cat Super 14 team the very next year. He has since played five Tests for the Springboks and was invited to train with the squad earlier this year.

Moving to the Vodacom Blue Bulls has not been an easy decision, but one that he ultimately feels is right. “It has been a very emotional week for me, as I have been through a lot with the Lions union. But I think that the move to the Bulls is the best one for my career. I needed a new challenge and a change.”

Van Heerden leaves the Lions just as they have begun to flourish, which for him makes the move even harder. “After the Super 14, we tried to implement some new structures, and they have now started to pay off.

“There are a lot of young guys in the side who have progressed incredibly this season, and the future of Lions rugby looks very exciting indeed.”

By Jon Cardinelli