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The Lions next play the Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday 21 March 2020, kickoff at 5:45 SA Time. Due to the Coronavirus the Super Rugby competition was suspended so the match will actually not take place as scheduled.

Faf-clone Van den Berg gets surprise start for Lio

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Jong Leeu
Jong Leeu

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    Posted: 06-Feb-2020 at 6:22pm
Relatively unknown halfback Morne van den Berg “has a little Faf (de Klerk) in him” and has been given the nod by the Emirates Lions to start against the Queensland Reds in their Vodacom Super Rugby match on Saturday.

Van der Berg is one of two changes – the other being the return of Andries Coetzee at fullback – to the Lions side that was beaten 38-8 in Buenos Aires by the Jaguares last weekend.

The young halfback, who played fullback for Wits in the Varsity Cup last year, comes into the side as an ankle injury has sidelined Andre Warner, and while Dillon Smit is seen as more experienced, the Lions decided to give Van der Berg a chance given his pre-season performances and exuberance.

Coach Ivan van Rooyen believes Van den Berg has pressed hard during the pre-season and deserves the chance to shine.

“He had an unbelievable pre-season, he pressed hard and because of that we had to give him an opportunity at SuperHero Sunday to see where he is and what he can do,” Van Rooyen said.

“In the last two games he did well, and for continuity sake we thought it is the right thing to do. We all know what Dillon (Smit) can do, he is a great player. Instead of chopping and changing it is continuity.”

While he played a good cameo in SuperHero Sunday, almost stealing the game for the Lions at the end, Van den Berg is someone who doesn’t hold back and reminds Van Rooyen of Bok halfback Faf de Klerk.

“He is traditionally a fullback, played fullback in Craven Week and junior rugby and moved to nine about two years ago. We don’t like comparing our players to other players, but there is a little Faf coming. He is that type of player, tough, nugget and will have a go.

“He is desperate and that is great. He is going to bring energy, he is going to make mistakes but at least when he does it, it is flat out. We are looking forward to seeing him.”

While Ross Cronje and winger Jamba Ulengo weren’t considered, Van Rooyen was happy to have Coetzee back in the fold after a stint in Japan.

“Coming back from Japan in good shape, good form and fit. It’s nice getting guys like that back,” he added referring to Coetzee. “Ross is probably a week or two away and Jamba is a week or two away, so it’s nice to get guys back that are experienced.”

The Lions are looking to put the defeat behind them and believe the Highveld will be their ally this weekend against the Australian side.

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