Lions await return of their big guns
Lions await return of their big gunsSHARE
Golden Lions coach Johan Ackermann will hope to welcome back four of his high-profile loan players next week, when he moves into the final phase of preparations for the Super Rugby promotion-relegation series.
The promotion/relegation games against the Southern Kings are scheduled for Friday, July 26 (in Port Elizabeth) and Friday, August 2 (in Johannesburg).
Ackermann, who is preparing his 'stay-at-home' players for their final warm-up match against Griquas in Johannesburg on Saturday, will be sweating as the loan quartet play their final matches for Super Rugby franchises.
Franco van der Merwe (for the Sharks against the Southern Kings), Elton Jantjies and Martin Bezuidenhout (for the Stormers against the Bulls), as well as Callie Visagie (for the Bulls in the same match) are due back in Johannesburg next week.
"I requested that they all return by [next] Monday [July 15]," Ackermann told this website in an interview ahead of the Griquas encounter.
Injuries will also play a role in the build-up to their encounters with the Kings
The Lions lost star loose forward Warren Whiteley with a leg muscle injury two weeks ago, fellow loose forward Jaco Kriel with an ankle injury in the build-up to their 33-29 win over the Sharks and midfielder Alwyn Hollenbach tore his toe ligaments against the Sharks.
"Most of our injured [stay-at-home] players at this stage are 50-50 [for the play-offs]," Ackermann said
"It is too early to say if players like Jaco [Kriel], Warren [Whiteley] and [centre] Alwyn [Hollenbach] will recover in time.
"Maybe they will miss the first match [July 26], but play in the second match [August 2]."
Injured loan players who are definitely not available for the play-offs include Jaco Taute (who underwent surgery after he severely damaged his anterior cruciate knee ligaments playing for the Stormers against the Cheetahs in April), Andries Coetzee (who underwent shoulder surgery while playing for the Sharks in April) and Lionel Mapoe (shoulder injury playing for the Bulls last month).
Ackermann will keep a beady eye on the Super Rugby encounters in Durban and Cape Town, hoping for no more injuries.
"We are hoping they come through the games [this weekend] unscathed and then they can start training with us this week," he said of Van der Merwe (Sharks), Jantjies, Bezuidenhout (both Stormers) and Visagie (Bulls).
If all his players come through this weekend's fixtures and some of his injured stars make a quick recovery, Ackermann will have a very strong squad from which to select his team for the play-offs.
Backs: Ruan Combrinck, Deon van Rensburg, Nicolaas Hanekom, Dylan des Fountain, Anthony Volmink, Marnitz Boshoff, Ross Cronjé, Guy Cronjé, Lionel Cronjé, Chrysander Botha, Michael Bondesio, Elton Jantjies, Alwyn Hollenbach.
Forwards: Lambert Groenewald, Derick Minnie, Warwick Tecklenburg, Hugo Kloppers, Hendrik Roodt, Julian Redelinghuys, Robbie Coetzee, JC Janse van Rensburg, Francois du Toit, Jacques van Rooyen, CJ van der Linde, JJ Breedt, Willie Britz, Ruan Dreyer, Franco van der Merwe, Martin Bezuidenhout, Callie Visagie, Warren Whiteley, Jaco Kriel.
By Jan de Koning