- Burger Odendaal and EW Viljoen’s arrivals at Ellis Park sign statements of intent, but it surely additionally raises some attention-grabbing factors.
- Each males, who at the moment play as centres, are cumbersome and recognized for his or her physicality, suggesting the Lions are inserting a brand new premium on solidity.
- However in addition they clog up a midfield that additionally options extra nimble skills reminiscent of Wandisile Simelane.
- It is understood that Simelane is perhaps earmarked to play fullback in future, illustrating that the Lions might need to change others too.
Over the previous two days, the Lions have made a considerable assertion of intent by recruiting Bulls captain Burger Odendaal and former Stormer EW Viljoen.
The financial setting for these buys has admittedly been moderately fortuitous.
Odendaal has been top-of-the-line paid gamers at Loftus – reportedly pocketing an quantity in extra of R3 million yearly – whereas Viljoen was settling in for a brand new chapter in England at Leicester.
In a “regular” participant market, it is unlikely that these two gamers would’ve ended up at Ellis Park.
However the Covid-19 pandemic has modified the panorama and, by all accounts, the Lions have swooped in to finish a couple of attention-grabbing offers.
Economics although is not probably the most intriguing side of Odendaal and Viljoen’s respective arrivals.
As a substitute, it suggests a elementary re-alignment of the Lions’ method to backline play.
Final month, Ivan “Money” van Rooyen, the franchise’s head coach, advised Sport24 that lockdown had supplied him and his teaching workers a chance to conduct a complete and important evaluation of their enjoying constructions and game-plan.
The Lions’ DNA stays intact – how else would one clarify stalwarts like Willem Alberts, Jaco Kriel and Ruan Dreyer returning? – however Van Rooyen famous that their on-field product maybe wanted a couple of tweaks.
Odendaal and Viljoen’s signings are a transparent indication that the group has recognized a necessity for extra bulk to enrich the extra nimble and agile skills of males like Wandisile Simelane, Manny Rass and Elton Jantjies.
It is vital to level out that this is not a transfer in direction of stampkar (bumper automobile) rugby that so many people dread, moderately a satisfying acknowledgement that generally you want a couple of gamers to go direct to create the momentum for that famed expansive method that led the franchise to a few consecutive Tremendous Rugby finals.
27-year-old Odendaal, who was actively courted by the Lions after matriculating from Monument in 2011, is 1.87m tall and weighs in extra of 100kg, explaining why he is been the Bulls’ rock in midfield for the previous 5 years.
Viljoen, at 25, is even taller at 1.92m and will simply bulk up from his already pretty imposing 95kg body.
Moreover, meatier centres in Doornfontein aren’t unprecedented – it is a course of that began final yr already when Dan Kriel, who’s larger than each his new team-mates, moved up from Cape City.
Nonetheless, the Lions’ give attention to a bit extra ruggedness raises a vital query: the place does it depart the pocket rockets like Simelane?
Sport24 has reliably learnt that there have been discussions over whether or not the previous Junior Springbok star would possibly want to contemplate a swap to a distinct place.
Fullback has been mooted as a slot the place the 22-year-old, who not too long ago penned a contract extension, can actually shift to a better gear.
Not solely would Simelane be granted further house on assault, he would additionally be capable to develop a powerful kicking recreation as he can boot the ball with each ft.
His swap would additionally liberate what has now grow to be a clogged midfield.
In these austere occasions, seven centres – Odendaal, Viljoen, Kriel, Simelane, Rass, Duncan Matthews and Louritz van der Schyff – is a luxurious bordering on wastefulness.
It would not be surprising then to see different gamers becoming a member of Simelane to find new numbers on their backs.
Viljoen’s earlier expertise at fullback and wing was touted as early as his unveiling on social media on Tuesday, whereas Matthews has been a winger for many of his profession at senior degree.
An excessive amount of versatility in a squad is usually a curse, however some correct thought might render it very thrilling too.