Lions' hookers falling like tenpins
Lions' hookers falling like tenpinsSHARE
The Lions' resurgent form was deal a double blow with the news that two of their frontline hookers have been ruled out through injury.
Coach Johan Ackermann confirmed that first-choice Robbie Coetzee and young up-and-coming Malcolm Marx will both miss the next few weeks.
The flipside is that they have veteran Willie Wepener to fall back on when they host the Reds at Ellis Park on Saturday, but the bench will most likely feature a rookie with little more than Vodacom Cup or age-group experience.
Coetzee damaged his right medial cruciate knee ligament in the 39-36 Super Rugby win over the Blues in Johannesburg this past Saturday, while Marx sustained a fracture to his right hand in a curtain raiser at the same venue.
Ackermann told this website in an interview that Coetzee will go for scans, but he is certainly out for this week.
"Willie Wepener will move in [to start against the Reds on Saturday]," the wily Lions mentor said, adding: "We still have to make a call on who will come onto the [replacement] bench.
"The guy who will come onto the bench will almost certainly be a youngster, who have not played any Super Rugby."
The 32-year-old Wepener will bring with him the experience of over 180 first class matches – which includes stints with the Golden Lions, Leopards, Griquas, Cats, Lions, Clermont, Blue Bulls and Bulls, having gone the full circle to finish at the Lions again.
However, the injury setbacks also provides an opportunity for the next guy.
"It is just a pity, because we have started to get some nice continuity in selection, especially among the forwards," Ackermann told this website.
"The last few weeks we had the same set of forwards and we lose that.
"I also feel sorry for Robbie [Coetzee]," he said, adding: "He could be sidelined for up to six weeks, depending on the result of the scan. He has been playing such good rugby the last few weeks."
For teenager Malcolm Marx his injury setback, when he fractured his hand in the Vodacom Cup match between the Golden Lions and Falcons, could not have come at a worse time.
The talented former South African schools star and SA Under-20 training squad member would almost certainly have been on the Lions' bench against the Reds.
However, the 19-year-old, who stands 188cm tall and weighs in at a handy 119kg, will be sidelined for three weeks.
"It will most probably be Mark Pretorius," Ackermann said of his Super Rugby team's replacement hooker.
Pretorius was the Lions' Under-21 captain last year and played off the bench for the Vodacom Cup team last week.
"Malcolm Marx pushed hard for a place in the team and [after the news of Coetzee's injury] I thought this is his chance," Ackermann said.
"Then I got the bad news that scans showed he will be out for at least three weeks.
"This now gives a chance for another player, who two days ago didn't even think he would play Super Rugby, to step up ."
The coach also confirmed that loose forward Warwick Tecklenburg is struggling with concussion and a call on his availability will be made later in the week.
On a positive note there will be the return of backs Andries Coetzee, Alwyn Hollenbach, Lionel Mapoe and Michael Bondesio.
They have all recovered from their respective injuries and will be ready to return to action. They will be considered for either the Lions Super Rugby side or the Vodacom Cup team.
By Jan de Koning