Currie Cup

The 'Bone Collector' belying his age as Lions seniors get their hands dirty

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Willem Alberts (Gallo Images)
Willem Alberts (Gallo Images)
  • Willem Alberts' enduring value was on show again in the Lions' fine victory over the Sharks as his rich vein of form continued.
  • Head coach Ivan van Rooyen praised the 36-year-old utility forward along with other veterans who have put their hands up in the past few weeks.
  • A promising showing by Wilhelm van der Sluys in the unfamiliar position of blindside flanker also allowed Alberts to continue wreaking havoc at lock, a vital source of continuity.

The value of Willem Alberts to the Lions' cause was writ large again on Saturday night as he played another starring role in a 27-12 victory over the Sharks at Ellis Park.

Looking in prime physical shape that belies his age, the 36-year-old utility forward was at the heart of his team's continued prominence in the tight phases, particularly on defence, where two crucial interventions in the second half snuffed out any hope of a comeback by the Durbanites.

The 'Bone Collector' was duly rewarded with the official Man-of-the-Match award and has become so influential that some observers might speculate where the Lions, in future, will be without him.

"It helps to have one or two heavy hitters in your team, like Willem," Ivan van Rooyen, the Lions head coach, said afterwards.

Short and to the point.

Alberts' rich vein of form though is part of a broader dynamic where the veterans have backed up their words and advice off the field with deeds on it.

"What I respect about guys like Willem, Jannie (du Plessis) and Jaco (Kriel) is that they're not just talking a big game and giving input in the dressing room over how things should be done. Their actions are really speaking louder at this stage," said Van Rooyen.

"I'm really proud of the more senior guys. They're really willing to put their hands up by actually getting them dirty, so to speak. That's really positive."

Importantly, it's taken a huge load off skipper and pivot, Elton Jantjies, who at times early this year looked man-alone in trying to guide a talented but raw group of players.

"They bring such massive experience on and off the field," said the Springbok flyhalf.

"Jannie's been really vocal for some time now over the brotherhood we needed to establish and gelling as a group, particularly given our mix of junior and senior players.

"On the field we've had numerous other players who've also taken the lead in their positions, guys like Jaco Visagie, Jaco Kriel, Marvin Orie and various others too. 

"We have guys in this group who know what they're talking about. We're all aligned and we're executing well. Willem and Jannie play a huge role in leadership and that's been key."

Despite the significant loss of in-form blindside flank Vincent Tshituka due to a niggle, the Lions decided not to switch Alberts back to his more familiar No 7 jersey, opting for the unheralded - at least as a flanker - Wilhelm van der Sluys.

The move paid off decently.

"I'll be honest, the Wilhelm decision is focused more on the bigger picture, with rugby in Europe in our future," said Van Rooyen.

"We've made a point of making our players adaptable and exposing them to different situations. I believe Wilhelm performed nicely, he's a quality player and he's played in Europe before. I'm happy for him."  

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