AUDIO: Lions banking on Bok reinforcements
AUDIO: Lions banking on Bok reinforcementsSHARE
The Lions – who suffered their third loss of the season when the Crusaders beat then 14-8 this past weekend – host the Stormers at Ellis Park this coming Saturday.
Like the Lions, the Stormers are coming off a disappointing loss.
The Lions are still seven points clear of the Stormers and Sharks (both on 13 points), in the SA conference race, but neither can afford to suffer any further defeats.
Lions coach Swys de Bruin said he is "hopeful" of having at least some of his injured Boks back for this week's crunch encounter.
Captain Warren Whiteley, who has been sidelined for a month with a posterior cruciate ligament injury, tops the list of Boks who could be back in the selection frame this week.
Bok wing Ruan Combrinck, who underwent shoulder surgery in October last year, is also back in the fray.
Rohan Janse van Rensburg, who suffered a knee injury last month, might be close to a return as well.
There is concern over the rib injury that has been keeping Bok scrumhalf Ross Cronje for the last few weeks.
A verdict is expected on Tuesday, but there has been a suggestion he might be sidelined from another six to eight weeks.
The Lions coach, who said he is not a guy for excuses, admitted that the absence of a host if Boks impacted on the team's ability to pull tight games through.
"We had six Springboks, who featured in the Final last year, that did not play in this match," De Bruin said after the loss to the Crusaders.
"[The likes of Jaco] Kriel, [Warren] Whiteley, Courtnall [Skosan], [Ruan] Combrinck, Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Ross [Cronje] – those are guys that make a massive difference.
"All the guys who stood in did well," he said, adding: "Not one of the guys who filled in for the Springboks played badly and that for me is great."
De Bruin described the weekend's encounter with the Super Rugby defending champions as a "Test match".
While his team failed to make the most of their opportunities, he felt the Lions showed "massive improvement" on defence from the previous weeks.
"It was am arm-wrestle right to the end," the coach said.
"It [the defeat] is frustrating, because we want to win.
"For me it is about the character and how you lose.
"I can't stand it if we don't play well and lose.
"However, if you play well and lose like this match, you have to shake hands with the opposition and say 'well done'- that is sport.
De Bruin pointed to his team's position on the standings.
They are second, behind the Rebels. Both teams are on 20 points, with the Rebels' superior points difference separating them.
"I know you will say we still have to tour, but we enjoy touring.
"We are on 20 points and the next best South African teams are both on 13 points.
"It [defeat] is not the end of the world yet and that [losing] bonus point might make a massive difference.
"It's not nice to lose, but we have to get over it and focus on the Stormers. Every game is big, but that [playing the Stormers] is another big game.
"They are coming off a loss and we have had a few bumps on the road.
"We are not going to give in. I know the character of this group."