Rugby365 reports that veteran lock forward Willem Stoltz is the ‘surprise package’ in the Lions team to face the Sharks in a Super 14 pre-season match in Durban on Wednesday.
The 33-year-old, who played for Agen in the French Second Division (Pro D2) for the past year, has been named in the Lions starting XV for the game against the Sharks – despite having only returned to South Africa a fortnight ago.
Lions team manager Peter Maimane confirmed on Wednesday that Stoltz “will be on trial” in the game, after which coach Eugene Eloff will decided if he is “fit enough” to make the final Super 14 cut.
“We are taking him [Stoltz] to Durban to have a look at him,” Maimane told rugby365.com.
“The Super 14 is a very tough competition and we are looking to beef up our squad before the tournament starts,” he added.
Stoltz, a veteran of 76 games for the Lions, was a regular member of the Agen squad before his decision to return home.
Stoltz, at 205cm, is literally a head taller than any of the other locks in the Lions’ pre-season squad – players like Gerhard Mostert (who will miss the trip to Durban through illness), Anton van Zyl, Franco van der Merwe, Cobus Grobler, Alten Hulme and Dewald Senekal.
On Wednesday he will be tested b y World Cup-winning Springboks Johann Muller and Albert van den Berg.
The Lions coach, Eloff, named a 29-man squad to play the Sharks in Durban on Wednesday – with a very experimental starting XV.
Star players like Heinke van der Merwe, Eugene Maqwelana, Cobus Grobbelaar, Jano Vermaak, Louis Strydom, Rayno Benjamin, Jaco Pretorius, Dusty Noble and Louis Ludik are all on the bench.
With injuries still keeping loose forwards Willem Alberts and Joe van Niekerk on the sideline, Franco van der Merwe will be on the flank. He will be joined by RW Kember (at No.8) and Wilhelm Koch among the loose forwards.
Stoltz will be partnered at lock by Cobus Grobler and the front row consists of the relatively untested Ross Geldenhuys, Gavin Williamson and JC Janse van Rensburg.
The backline will see Earl Rose start at fly-half, with the only other ‘high profile’ players centres Jaco van Schalkwyk and Thabang Molefe.
Lions: 15 Michael Killian, 14 Wigan Pekeur, 13 Jaco van Schalkwyk, 12 Thabang Molefe, 11 Heini Gordon, 10 Earl Rose, 9 Chris Jonck, 8 RW Kember, 7 Franco van der Merwe, 6 Wilhelm Koch, 5 Willem Stoltz, 4 Cobus Grobler, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Gavin Williamson, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.
Replacements (from): Heinke van der Merwe, Ashton Constant, Eugene Maqwelana, Alten Hulme, Roland Bernard, Cobus Grobbelaar, Jano Vermaak, Louis Strydom, Rayno Benjamin, Walter Venter, Doppies la Grange, Jaco Pretorius, Dusty Noble, Louis Ludik.
Date: Wednesday, 6 February
Venue: Absa Stadium, Durban
Kick-off: 19.00 (17.00 GMT)
Referee: Craig Joubert