Stormers doing Boks a favour
The cynics may be ready to discard them to the scrap heap, but Bryan Habana tells Jan de Koning the Stormers are doing South African rugby a huge favour.
The cynics may be ready to discard them to the scrap heap, but the Stormers would be doing South African rugby a huge favour by giving their Lions imports an extended Super Rugby run.
Springboks Jaco Taute, Elton Jantjies (both on loan) and Patric Cilliers (signed) all featured in last week's 17-25 loss to the Bulls in Pretoria - with mixed results.
Taute, who failed to launch any of his trademark counter attacks, suffered a rather painful injury in the groin region and will not travel to Durban for the Stormers' Round Two encounter with the Sharks.
Jantjies was retained at flyhalf, despite failing with all his kicks at goal, while Cilliers will play off the bench this week after starting at tighthead prop in Pretoria.
South Africa's Player of the Year, veteran Bok wing Bryan Habana, suggested the Stormers are "very lucky" with their collection of Lions.
Apart from Taute, Jantjies and Cilliers, the Stormers' wider squad also includes other Lions imports like hooker Martin Bezuidenhout (on loan), lock Ruan Botha (signed) and utility forward Michael Rhodes (signed).
Having worked alongside Taute, Jantjies and Cilliers in the Bok squad last year, Habana is confident these players will make a "big contribution" to the Stormers' cause this year.
"It is a bit disappointing that the Lions are not in Super Rugby," Habana told this website in an exclusive interview.
"Guys like Elton [Jantjies], Jaco [Taute], Lionel Mapoe [who is on loan to the Bulls] and other Lions, had to leave to keep alive their dream of Test rugby.
"They all chose different franchises and we feel we are very lucky to have guys like Jaco and Elton.
"There are also other great additions to our team [from the Lions], like Pat Cilliers, Michael Rhodes and Martin Bezuidenhout."
Habana said the imports brought a new energy to the squad.
"It is always good to have new faces," he told this website, adding: "Some of the older guys have moved on - like Jaque Fourie, Francois Louw and Anton van Zyl.
"These new guys make it exciting for all of us."
Another big spin-off of these loan deals is that Boks like Jantjies and Taute are being accommodated in a team playing in a world class competition.
If they are called up to the Bok team again this year, they would not have played in inferior competitions.
"There are guys in the current Lions squad who will still have a shot at playing for the Boks," Habana said.
"It is just much tougher if you don't play Super Rugby.
"The Lions are doing their best to accommodate those other players in some form of a competition.
"However, it is not the same when you play Russia, America and teams like that, than when you play against the best of the Southern Hemisphere week-after-week."
The 29-year-old Bok wing, who will be joining up with Toulon in the south of France after the Super Rugby season, said it is important for South African rugby to keep these players in a top-flight competition.
"There are also players at the Kings who will have to leave their mark on the competition if they want to be in the Bok [selection] frame," he said.
"It is important for SA rugby, not only that the five Super Rugby franchises, but all 14 provincial unions are strong.
"There must be a feeder system, be that Varsity Cup or Vodacom Cup, that supplies quality players to Super Rugby and from there to the Springboks.
"It is important that those [feeder] systems are in place to strengthen SA rugby."
By Jan de Koning