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C’est le Wies

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 14 Mar 2014 at 13:56
Tagged with : , , , , , ,

It’s a terrible headline, of course, but I guess what I’m trying to convey here is two things. Bear with me, if you would be so kind…

Obviously it’s meant to be a pun on the French “c’est la vie”, or “that’s life”, referring to Pieter-Steph du Toit’s season-ending injury and the fact that injuries like those are a very real part of the life of any rugby player. While this sort of thing is tragic, the Sharks cannot allow the loss of one player, however influential, to affect their bigger plans and goals and with a strong squad and experienced coaches at the helm, I am sure they can quickly put this behind them (no disrespect meant to Steph, of course) and move on with the season. Injuries are a part of life. They happen, you adapt, you move forward.

Now wouldn’t it be great if we had a 100-test veteran ready to step in at number 5? The reality is that we don’t and now need to back another youngster who has a huge opportunity ahead of him. C’est le Wies, which is terrible French for “now is the time for Stephan Lewies to show the whole world exactly why the Sharks coaching staff rate him so highly”. Succinct, innit?

When looking at that most dreaded item of rugby jargon, “junior pedigree”, I think it’s safe to say that Lewies simply doesn’t bat, certainly not when compared to JWC winner du Toit. The lanky 22-year-old from an unfancied school in Centurion isn’t descended from any Bok greats, nor did he get anywhere near the Bulls Craven Week team – in fact, so unknown was he as a youngster that his SA Rugby profile doesn’t even list which high school he attended (Eldoraigne, as it turns out). Coming to the Sharks Academy as a left-field pick, he battled with injury throughout his junior career and really surprised everyone last year as he rose through the ranks, within a very short space of time, to end up with a Currie Cup winner’s medal. What he did manage to in the process, though, was make a big impression on Brendan Venter and the new coach, Jake White, seems to share the previous one’s opinion; after all, he’s picking Lewies week in and week out, while more experienced locks play Vodacom Cup.

Venter was impressed with Lewies because, aside from his unusual pace and athleticism for such a big guy, he showed an incredible aptitude – and appetite – for the more cerebral aspects of the game. In other words, he’s a bright young man, a real thinker and together with du Toit, worked well with Venter on line-out analysis towards the end of the Currie Cup campaign. Here’s a player, in other words, who has the “goods” to make it as a 5-lock in the modern game. All he really needs is a chance.

And now he has that chance, because let’s face it, the Sharks’ number 5 jersey is Lewies’s to lose. As if any further carrot was needed, the very real prospect looms of a place in Heyneke Meyer’s midyear squad for any local player who shows aptitude in that jersey too, given the dearth of talent in the position. Now, please don’t think I’m trying to argue for Bok inclusion before the poor guy has enjoyed even a single start in Super Rugby; the point is rather that the sky really is the limit for young Stephan and literally anything is possible for him now.

There’s your silver lining right there, Sharks fans – like the guy playing next to him, Stephan Lewies has shown that it is possible to come up the hard way, that Craven Week and SA Under 20 aren’t the only sure route to Super Rugby selection. Let’s hope he can couple that fighting spirit with his natural talent as a lineout forward and prove, over the course of the next few months, that du Toit’s tragic injury isn’t quite the hammer blow that we currently perceive it to be.

“Vervul jou roeping” (“fulfill your calling”) stands proudly emblazoned on the badge of Eldoragins Hoërskool. It’s time for her proudest son to live up to those words.


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