Western Force scrum-half Ryan Louwrens had a longer wait than most to make his first Super Rugby appearance.
The 24-year-old finally got his first taste when he came off the bench in the 35-27 loss to the Chiefs last weekend and makes his starting debut against the Blues in the battle of the cellar dwellers in Auckland tomorrow night.
The Johannesburg-born former Churchlands High School student joined the Force academy in 2008 but returned to South Africa a year later to finish his schooling and represented Valke in the Craven Week schoolboys tournament and under-19 Currie Cup.
He rejoined the academy in 2011 and was promoted to the extended playing squad in 2013, but his last season was cut short by a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament.
“With the injury and so forth my first game has been postponed up until now but getting the opportunity against the Chiefs was awesome. It was definitely well worth the wait,” Louwrens said.
“Now it’s up to me. I’m the one that’s got the opportunity and I’ve got to take it with both hands.”
Louwrens had been on the reserves bench against the Chiefs wondering how much game time he would get when Ian Prior was sent off after 28 minutes.
“I was hoping to get maybe 10 or hopefully 15 minutes, then it happened,” he said.
“I got very nervous. For five minutes I was going through a bit of emotion and then I finally found my feet.”
As well as showcasing his passing and running ability Louwrens showed his strength in the tackle, making nine hits without a miss in his 50 minutes– more than many scrum-halves make in an entire game.
Force second-rower Adam Coleman, who hurt his shoulder against the Chiefs, is out, with Wilhelm Steenkamp to start tomorrow.
Scrum-half Justin Turner is called to the bench from local club rugby and wider training group prop Guy Millar replaces Oliver Hoskins (ankle). Ross Haylett-Petty is a replacement.
The Blues have called up captain and No.8 Jerome Kaino and full-back Charles Piutau, who both missed last week’s loss to the Crusaders while on mandatory World Cup All Blacks rest.''''''''''''
Force: Pek Cowan, Nathan Charles, Tetera Faulkner, Steve Mafi, Adam Coleman/Wilhelm Steenkamp, Angus Cottrell, Matt Hodgson (capt), Ben McCalman, Ryan Louwrens, Sias Ebersohn, Nick Cummins, Luke Burton, Kyle Godwin, Luke Morahan, Dane Haylett-Petty. Reserves: Heath Tessmann, Chris Heiberg, Guy Millar, Wilhelm Steenkamp/Ross Haylett-Petty, Kane Koteka, Justin Turner, Marcel Brache, Junior Rasolea.''''''' '
Blues : Tony Woodcock, Keven Mealamu, Charlie Faumuina, Josh Bekhuis/Culum Retallick, Hayden Triggs, Akira Ioane, Brendon O’Connor, Jerome Kaino (capt), Jimmy Cowan, Dan Bowden, Melani Nanai, George Moala/Hamish Northcott, Francis Saili/Hamish Northcott, Lolagi Visinia, Charles Piutau. Reserves: James Parsons, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Angus Ta’avao, Steven Luatua, Luke Braid, Jamison Gibson-Park, Ihaia West, Hamish Northcott/Levita Li.
TODAY : Highlanders v Sharks, Brumbies v Waratahs
TOMORROW : Blues v Force, Hurricanes v Crusaders, Rebels v Chiefs, Cheetahs v Stormers,
Bulls v Lions