Mostert is head and shoulders above the rest - Victor Matfield

HIGH JUMP: Lions lock Franco Mostert has been tipped as the next big thing in South African rugbys No 5 jersey.

South Africa’s new line-out king has arrived!

There can be no disputing the fact that Franco Mostert has taken over from Victor Matfield as the best No 5 lock in South Africa. And if he continues to perform at the level he’s been at in the last two years, there’s every chance he’ll be as good as Matfield was in his day.

And even the great former Springbok lock agrees that Mostert is on his way to greatness.

“His work-rate puts him ahead of all the other locks in the country,” said Matfield yesterday. “And, at 26 he’s only now maturing as a player. He will gain more and more confidence in himself as a leader now, knowing he is the man responsible for everything that happens in the pack. I, too, only really came into my own around that age.”

Mostert has been one of the stars of Johan Ackermann’s Lions team since joining from the Bulls in 2012. At that stage he was playing mainly Varsity Cup rugby for Tukkies, but with some big names standing ahead of him in the lock queue at Loftus he opted to join the Lions – a big gamble because he had an idea the team would be relegated from Super Rugby in 2013.

Ackermann though knew what potential Mostert had, and told him that he would get more game-time at the Lions ,and the rest, as they say, is history. The specialist No 5
lock has become a Springbok, a starter at that, and a key member of the Lions.

He showed all his class again when he pinched two line-out throws from the Hurricanes in the Super Rugby semi-final at Ellis Park on Saturday, when the Lions were under pressure and camped on their own try-line. The home team would escape from that threat and go on to turn the game on its head and win 44-29.

They will now face the Crusaders in the final this weekend.

Matfield said he always had a suspicion Mostert would become a quality lock. “As a 20-year-old playing Varsity Cup rugby and training with us at the Bulls I thought he had something special about him it was his work-rate that stood out for me,” Matfield said.

“There were some who questioned his size, but I was also quite light as a youngster, and knew that wouldn’t hold him back. And look at him now.”

Mostert doesn’t even hit the two-metre mark, standing 1.98m tall and tipping the scales at 103kg. But his mobility, strong ball-carrying abilities and tackle rate make him a standout player. “He just doesn’t stop going, he’s so full of energy,” said Matfield. “He was outstanding against the Hurricanes and you can see there must be plenty of hard work going into his game off the field.

“To make those steals required instinct and knowing where the ball was going to be thrown doing quality analysis on the opposition of course helps with your instinct.”

Not only has Mostert formed a formidable second row pairing with the unheralded, but equally-effective Andries Ferreira at the Lions, he has also become a key man next to Eben Etzebeth in the Bok team. “He is the perfect man for that job, an out-and-out No 5, who works hard and carries strongly I can see him being there for a very long time,” said Matfield. This weekend’s challenge will be Mostert’s toughest of the season, according to the former Bok star. “The Crusaders are a class act and there’s no doubt they have the best line-out in the competition. It’s going to be a big challenge,” he said.

With 16 line-out steals – to lead the way in that area of the game – and 49 catches when thrown to him in Super Rugby this year, Ackermann knows what a gem he has in Mostert. Mostert, like all his teammates, will hope to produce one more big performance this weekend a Super Rugby title is, after all, on the line.

Meanwhile, The Golden Lions Rugby Union confirmed yesterday that all tickets to the final were sold out, with many supporters having to be turned away from ticket offices empty handed. Some tickets may still become available if season ticket holders do not take up their option to attend the game on Saturday. They have until Wednesday to decide.