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VIDEO: Asa on those big hits that 'really' gets him going

OPINION: It’s those big hits that really gets him going, says Lions tighthead Asenathi Ntlabakanye – a big man who loves big collisions and especially sneaking up on those diminutive backline players.


Listed on the United Rugby Championship website as weighing in at a massive 153kg, ‘Asa’ as he is affectionately known by his teammates, is probably one of the biggest players on the world rugby stage at the moment.

Many opponents have received eye-bursting hits from the prop as he silently sneaks up on them, moving faster than anyone expects, and slams them – often out of the field of play.

When the Bulls hosted the Lions at Loftus on January 27 in a URC clash, one that the hosts narrowly won 30-28, wing Sergeal Petersen was at the receiving end of one of those collisions with the big prop.

Speeding down the sideline, Ntlabakanye, seemingly out of nowhere, smashed Petersen and bundled him into touch. The video of this big hit went viral.


Speaking ahead of their URC encounter against the Bulls at Ellis Park this weekend, Ntlabakanye could not help but smile when asked about his love for those big collisions.


“It really feels good. It really gets me going, it gets the guys around me really psyched up and good to go,” he said.

“Especially a game like that at Loftus. It’s something I can’t explain man, it’s, ja, like I said, I really pride myself… As a backline player the chances of me getting there were probably slim, so I kind of had to read it and see it before he saw me. So it was quite something to see.”

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The Lions are a team that pride themselves on their set-piece. Their forwards love a good old arm wrestle.


During that last game at Loftus, the men from Johannesburg appeared to overpower the Bulls. The Lions pack, on that day weighing in at 940kg, were often superior in the scrums against the Bulls’ 891kg.

It didn’t surprise Bulls coach Jake White, stating afterwards the Lions have a good set-piece, saying: “I wasn’t surprised because they’ve got a good set-piece, but I was disappointed with the inconsistency of our group,” White said.

Especially Ntlabankye, who gave his opposite number, Simphiwe Matanzima a scrum lesson of note.

In the week leading up to that fixture, Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen made mention of his team’s intention to bring the onslaught up front.

“We know that if you’re not physical against the Bulls, they’ll get momentum. With momentum, comes quick ball and offloads. So we know we are going to have to front up physically as well as be aware of their kicking game and set-piece play,” Van Rooyen said.

The Lions’ Francke Horne, Emmanuel Tshituka and Reinhard Nothnagel were all putting in the big hits.

Ntlabakanye spoke about those collision moments and how much of an integral part of his game it is.

“For me to really get going, obviously as a prop, I need to win the collisions to get the guys around me hyped up and myself hyped up as well. I am really more a collision guy, I pride myself on that,” he explained.

Looking at the game coming up this Saturday, it is clear that the Lions want to take their physicality to the next level.

“Even though we were quite happy, we weren’t satisfied with our set-piece performance, it was not quite up to our standard, we felt it was an average performance,” Ntlabakanye added.

“So there are a few things we need to work on, especially in the scrums. I think when you have a team like the Bulls under pressure, you need to keep them there. A few times we let them get out of the pressure, so as a forward pack, it is something we looked at in the past two weeks and going into this game.”

Horn added to this, saying they need to stay focused for longer so as not to make unforced errors.

“I just think sometimes that it is maybe one or two silly penalties that we are giving away at the wrong stages of the game or it is just maybe a lack of concentration or not effective game management.

“It is nothing big, we definitely look at it every time, even if we win, where we can be better and I think we have been building nicely.

“I do not doubt that we will make the right decisions at the right time.”


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