Super Rugby

Ruan Dreyer's return takes Lions back to their heyday of doing shrewd business

Ruan Dreyer. (Getty Images)
Ruan Dreyer. (Getty Images)
  • Ruan Dreyer's return to the Lions is arguably the best piece of business the franchise has done in the past three years for various reasons.
  • Not only does the 29-year-old prop add experience to the mix, his versatility as prop means he's comfortable on both sides of the scrum.
  • Former Lions mentor Swys de Bruin is pleased the franchise is managing to attract stalwarts who are familiar with the team's DNA. 

Ruan Dreyer's return to Ellis Park could arguably represent the Lions' best piece of business for the past three years.

The 29-year-old prop, a four-cap Springbok, was on Thursday confirmed as the franchise's latest acquisition, joining the player exodus from English club Gloucester.

While his overall experience adds to a steadily growing core of seniors at the Lions, his versatility as a front-rower who can crouch on both sides of the scrums is the most valued benefit he offers.

"What's pleasing is that the team realises you can never have too many tightheads in your squad," former Lions head coach and Springbok consultant Swys de Bruin, who worked with Dreyer extensively, told Sport24.  

"They are the guys that assist greatly in laying the foundation for the team's attacking pattern."

On a more micro-level, the former Monument pupil's presence has the potential to positively influence Carlu Sadie, the gifted former Junior Bok who needs to shift to a higher gear in his development if he's going to build on the massive impression he made as a Stormers loanee in 2019.

Even though veteran Jannie du Plessis kept the 23-year-old No 3 out of the starting XV at the beginning of this year's truncated Super Rugby campaign, the feeling is that the age gap between the two players couldn't translate into a proper, long-term tussle for the jersey.

"Jannie certainly added value, but probably more in general terms. He's the 37-year-old who's experienced it all and wanted to give it all for his team one final time," said De Bruin.

"Ruan is in his prime as a prop. There's enough at stake for him to really want to make the tighthead position his own again. I'd think he still has something to prove after his taste of international rugby. That's the type of competition that could really prove valuable for Carlu.

"Not only will he learn a lot from Ruan, he'll also be kept on his toes throughout."

Dreyer's compact 1.85m, 115kg frame also means that he's a more than useful backup option at loosehead too, especially given Dylan Smith's chequered injury record over the past few years.

"He'd probably tell you that he prefers tighthead, but what's interesting about Ruan is that he actually has the ideal body to play both positions," said De Bruin.

"He's not too tall to wear the No 1 jersey and not too small for No 3. He's played in both positions, so he can really add value in that regard.

"Overall, he's also a fantastic ball-carrier because he's so agile and fleet-footed and that gives you some real momentum in general play."

Dreyer continues a curious if welcome trend of players with Lions roots coming back to the franchise, joining Willem Alberts and Jaco Kriel.

"I think it's great. The team under Cash (head coach Ivan van Rooyen) might play in a different manner, but they clearly still want to keep their DNA," said De Bruin.

"Ruan was one of the pioneers in that regard and now he can help this new group forge their identity based on what's worked in the past."

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