Rohan Janse van Rensburg Sharks in URC

Sharks centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg. Photo: Getty Images.

‘Homecoming’ derby showcases SA bulldozers

Centres Marius Louw and Rohan Janse van Rensburg spurred on by the desire to get one over former teams when Lions face Sharks on Saturday.

Rohan Janse van Rensburg Sharks in URC

Sharks centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg. Photo: Getty Images.

Opponents on the rugby field rarely require an incentive to put their best foot forward, but Marius Louw and Rohan Janse van Rensburg will be spurred on by the desire to get one over their former team when the Lions face the Sharks in Johannesburg on Saturday in the URC.

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The first of two all-South African Vodacom URC clashes this weekend features teams desperate to cement a place in the playoff race with just five rounds remaining.


The Sharks (eighth) and Lions (13th) have a game in hand on all but two other teams in the Vodacom URC, and they’ll be counting on their bulldozing inside centres to provide momentum — on both the field and the league table — in Saturday’s derby.

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Despite being schooled in Pretoria and representing the Bulls youth team, the Sharks’ Janse van Rensburg made his name as a Lion, joining the pride in 2015 and making his full debut a year later.

Tipping the scales at a hefty 108kg, Janse van Rensburg formed a successful midfield partnership with Lionel Mapoe, a combination that was pivotal in the Lions success in 2016.

A first call-up to the Springbok squad for Janse van Rensburg soon followed and, later that year, he earned his one and only Test cap against Wales in Cardiff.

The continued recognition of Damian de Allende and Jan Serfontein’s defensive fortitude blocked Janse van Rensburg’s climb up the Springbok pecking order and after an initial loan spell with Sale Sharks, he made his move to Manchester permanent in 2018.

While a move abroad meant that Janse van Rensburg fell off the radar in South Africa, he continued to grow his game in England.

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However, the Sharks’ search for a power centre to partner Lukhanyo Am resulted in Janse van Rensburg’s return to South Africa last year.

Plans to launch the midfield combination have been mostly grounded by Am suffering a knee injury and Janse van Rensburg’s early-season suspension, but they have wreaked havoc whenever paired.

“I was definitely intrigued by the Sharks,” Janse van Rensburg said of his decision to return to South Africa.

“The fact that Eben Etzebeth signed, Siya Kolisi signed and Lukhanyo extended, made me look at the franchise as one I wanted to be part of. I was very intrigued to see what the Sharks could offer, especially because of the move to the URC and the extended opportunity in playing in other competitions in Europe.

“It is exciting to be part of a squad that is so developed and experienced. They make it look easy when you’re playing with them. The amount of knowledge in our backline meetings would make some people’s heads explode.”

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The 2021 acquisition of Ben Tapuai coupled with Janse van Rensburg’s move to the Sharks last season ate into Louw’s playing time. Up until that point, the Bloemfontein-born player had spent his entire professional career in Durban, representing the union from under-19 level and making his senior professional debut in 2017.


Having come through the schools ranks as an openside flanker, Louw was 19 when he switched to centre and he has since emerged as a brutal breakdown threat in the backline.

But with dwindling opportunities to start, Louw answered the call to join the Emirates Lions who were looking for a replacement for former captain Burger Odendaal.

“Coming here I knew the Lions play an exciting brand of rugby and I could see myself fitting in nicely. I’m super excited about what lies ahead.”

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The 27-year-old has hit the ground running in his first season in Johannesburg, replacing Odendaal in the No 12 jersey and taking over the captaincy in the absence of injured lock Reinhard Nothnagel.

Partnered with Henco van Wyk, who many consider to be a long-term contender for the Springbok No 13 jersey, Louw has offered a youthful Lions side direction and leadership.

The centre showdown is sure to be decisive in determining control of the gainline, and Louw and Janse van Rensburg will thunder into contact with the tenacity of two men determined to prove they are the most indispensable.

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Sharks in URC standings pngv
The top eight in the URC standings.