Lions faced with 'interesting dynamic'

Tue, 16 Jan 2018 09:05

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Jan de Koning chatted to Lions coach Swys de Bruin about a pre-season that sees the team bereft of a chunk of their frontline players.

De Bruin, who took over from Johan Ackermann as head coach after the latter moved to Gloucester last year, is adamant that the absence of so many players will not be a hindrance to the back-to-back Super Rugby finalists.

"We have a very interesting dynamic here," he told rugby365, adding: "We have some players in Japan [including the likes of Lourens Erasmus, Franco Mostert, captain Warren Whiteley, Lionel Mapoe and Elton Jantjies], one in Montpellier [prop Johannes Jonker], Kwagga [Albertus Smith] at the Sevens and Trokkie [Ruhan Janse van Rensburg] at Sale Sharks.

"We are waiting for about eight players to still return, but most of them will be back next week," De Bruin added.

"Most of these players have been in our system for a number of years, so there should be no problem of them slotting in."

The good news is that the captain, Whiteley, has fully recovered from the groin injury that sidelined him for six months last year and has gad some invaluable game time in Japan.

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"He has had a few outings in Japan," De Bruin said of Whiteley, adding: "He played a full 80 minutes this past weekend and told me afterwards it went well.

"There are no concerns about his [groin] injury, so that is very good news."

There are a couple of players who will miss the start of the season while still recovering from injury - Springbok wing Ruan Combrinck (shoulder surgery) and Bok flank Jaco Kriel (shoulder surgery).

"Jaco should return by the end of February," De Bruin told rugby365.

"He could miss the first two rounds of Super Rugby [against the Sharks on February 17 in Johannesburg and the Jaguares at Ellis Park a week later].

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"[Ruan] Combrinck will only return mid April," the coach added.

The Lions will eventually have the bulk of the team that reached back-to-back finals the last two years.

The only key personnel people missing are Springbok scrumhalf Francois de Klerk (joined Sale Sharks), loose forward Ruan Ackermann (moved to Gloucester), his father Johan Ackermann (now the Gloucester coach) and defence coach JP Ferreira (joined Munster).

By Jan de Koning

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