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Bondesio blow for Lions

Mon, 29 Jul 2013 22:33
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We had faith in him that he could make the step up

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The Lions will hope former South African Under-20 scrumhalf Vian van der Watt makes a swift recovery.

The 2012 Baby Bok injured his shoulder, after coming in as a late replacement for the injured Michael Bondesio ahead of the Lions' 26-19 Super Rugby promotion-relegation win over the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth last Friday.

Lions coach Johan Ackermann remained optimistic that Van der Watt would make a full recovery ahead of the return match of the series, at Ellis Park on Saturday.

Bondesio, who was originally named for the encounter in PE last week, will be sidelined for at least two to three months.

"Michael [Bondesio] underwent surgery [after struggling with calf and knee injuries in recent weeks] and will be sidelined for two to three months," Ackermann told this website in an interview, adding that the team's first-choice scrumhalf went under the knife last Friday already.

"We realised last Thursday he [Bondesio] won't recover and opted to travel without him," the coach added.

Ackermann explained that they had decided to call up the 20-year-old after Ross Cronje also dropped out of the trip to PE with a hamstring injury that didn't respond to treatment quickly enough.

"It meant Vian [van der Watt] was the next in line, given that he had played a game of similar significance - when he featured for the Baby Boks [SA Under-20] against New Zealand in the IRB Junior Final a Newlands last year," the Lions mentor said.

"He has performed very well for the Under-21 team so far and we had faith in him that he could make the step up," he said of the University of Johannesburg scrumhalf.

Ackermann said Van der Watt had injured his shoulder early in the game in PE and they asked him to hang in there as long as possible.

"Eventually he could not handle the pain," the coach said, adding: "Then we made the change with Guy Cronje [who is in the process of being converted from flyhalf to scrumhalf]."

"We did fine, even though we were without three of our frontline players [at No.9]."

Apart from Bondesio the Lions look set to be without veteran wing Deon van Rensburg as well.

He was replaced by Chrysander Botha inside the first half-hour, after injuring his leg.

"They are still trying to determine the full extent of his leg injury," Ackermann said, adding: "It looks like just bruising, but they want to make sure there's no fracture.

"However, I doubt he will recover in time, as he walks with lots of discomfort."

The good news is that hooker Martin Bezuidenhout (concussion) and loose forward Jaco Kriel (concussion) have recovered well and the chances are good they will be fit for this coming weekend.

There is also seasoned hooker Callie Visagie, who will finally return to Ellis Park, after his loan agreement with the Lions' trans-Jukskei neighbours expired after the Bulls got knocked out of the Super Rugby play-offs by the Brumbies last Saturday.

The other loan players - Franco van der Merwe (from the harks), Elton Jantjies and Bezuidenhout (both Stormers) - returned a fortnight ago and performed with distinction for the Lions in PE.

Visagie's return will add further depth to the squad. However, it is uncertain at this stage if he will feature in the starting XV or even the match-day 22.

By Jan de Koning

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