Ackermann's worst fears realised
Lions coach Johan Ackermann had his worst fears realised when a player he wanted to hold back last week was injured.
Golden Lions coach Johan Ackermann had his worst fears realised when a player he wanted to hold back last week was injured.
New Springbok utility Lionel Mapoe is rated as just a 50-50 chance to face Western Province in the Currie Cup semifinal on Saturday, after coming off the bench in the final 20 minutes of the loss to the Blue Bulls last Saturday.
Ackermann confirmed to this website that Mapoe damaged a medial ligament in his knee, after coming on in the 64th minute for Deon van Rensburg.
Ironically Deon van Rensburg was forced off the field with a cracked fibula, a recurrence of an injury that sidelined him earlier in the season.
While Mapoe is still an outside chance of featuring in the play-offs, Ackermann has all but ruled out Van Rensburg for this week.
"We will give Lionel [Mapoe] till Friday," Ackermann said.
"I didn't want to play him [against the Blue Bulls at the weekend], but at the last minute we decided to put him on the bench - a decision I now regret," the coach admitted.
"He is one of those players that were on form and he also has that X-factor."
Ackermann said you never expect somebody to get injured when going on as a replacement in the last 20 minutes.
"He wanted some game time, [after holding tackle bags and not featuring in the matchday 22 while he was with the Boks]. But that is rugby, it is one of the risks you take.
"The next guy who steps in must take the opportunity and accept the responsibility," Ackermann added.
The flipside of the coin for the Lions is that they are getting some quality back into the selection frame, including rookie Bok Jaco Taute - one of several key players rested last week.
"Jaco [Taute] returns and will most likely start at No.13, with Alwyn [Hollenbach] at No.12," Ackermann told this website.
"I would have played Lionel on the wing, so if he passes a late fitness test he will play on the wing, otherwise we will look at our combination again."
The coach added that there are plenty of "bumps and bruises" in the team.
Utility forward Michael Rhodes came off with a knock to the knee, but it is not serious and should be fit to play.
Wing Ruan Combrink, who took a knock to the head the previous week, is also fit again.
Midfielder Alwyn Hollenbach is struggling with a groin injury, which is why he came off at half-time against the Bulls. However, Ackermann said the doctor is confident he will be fine.
"The only major concerns are Lionel [Mapoe] and Deon [Van Rensburg]." the Lions mentor said, adding that scrumhalf Michael Bondesio is also back on the training field.
"He still has to get through this week, after his calf injury, but we are confident that he will be cleared to play.
"Michael is important to the team and he played good rugby before his injury.
"Add to that players like [Bok backs] Elton [Jantjies] and Jaco [Taute], who bring the X-factor. They can do something special at any time.
"Then there are players like Andries Coetzee, [captain] JC [Janse van Rensburg] and [loose forward] Cobus [Grobbelaar], who were all in great form [before being rested last week].
"It is good to have players of that caliber back."
However, it also leaves Ackermann with a few interesting selection choices before naming his team on Tuesday.
He described as a "tough call" the decision of whether to start with the World Cup-winning veteran Andrew James at flyhalf or rookie Bok Elton Jantjies at No.10.
"You have the experience and calmness of Butch, but you have Elton who plays our pattern very well.
"I also have a few tough calls in the front row to make as well," he said.
This past weekend returning Bok props Pat Cilliers and CJ van der Linde featured on either side of hooker Callie Visagie.
But a front row of captain JC Janse van Rensburg, Bok hooker Bandise Maku and Jacobie Adriaanse is not a bad call either.
"The players understand the situation and support each other," he said about his selection posers.
"They know this will require a 22-man effort - we are not a one-man show," Ackermann added.
By Jan de Koning