Lions wait on injuries
The Emirates Lions will have an anxious wait on the news of three of their players injured in their Vodacom Super Rugby victory over the Reds on Saturday.
Jaco van der Walt, Johannes Jonker and Springbok Lionel Mapoe will all undergo scans Monday morning to see the seriousness of their injuries, but chances are that the Lions are likely to be without the trio at least for Saturday’s game against the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth and may be a lot longer if coach Johan Ackermann’s fears are realised.
Van der Walt and Jonker were both stretchered off the field on Saturday while Mapoe has a suspected broken hand, and all confirmations will be crucial to the Lions’ campaign this season.
“Jaco has either broken something and then he is going to be out for some time, or best case scenario it is only ligament damage and that will be a few weeks. Again, only the scans will tell,” Ackermann said on the injuries.
Johannes we will have to assess to see if it is something worse than a head knock and then Lionel Mapoe has a possibility of a broken hand. And that is only what we know of, so we will be tested in our depth and that isn’t a good thing, but if we put that aside, the guys love to play.”
Ackermann said depending on the injuries, some players may well be rested against the Kings, but following the Eastern Cape side’s performance against the Sharks, it is unlikely the Lions will rest too many players.
“Some players I do believe can do with some game time, but there is one or two positions we are looking to freshen up,” he added.
“That is not saying we want to weaken the side, we believe the player will come in, he is good enough and probably could have played already. But we will reassess, and must look at our injuries. Is it worth risking a player with whatever we want to do. But again, you can’t underestimate the Kings, they are going to push sides all the way if they’re not going to beat them.
“They will be tough at home, and we need to go down there and get a result. So we will need our best possible team.”
The Lions admitted as well that while they were happy with the big win over the Reds, there were frustrations at some of the tries they left on the park, prompting talk that there is still a lot of work left for the side before they are where they want to be.
“In the first half yes, we felt almost like we were rushed in the 22 but we said beforehand, if you look at the quality on paper of the Reds side, we actually thought it would go head to head right until the end and the team which will stay the most patient will get the result,” Ackermann added.
“We saw a lot of opportunities and if we could change one or two things at halftime, and focus on that, that hopefully the break will come, and it did. Althought it was frustration on the one side, because we left easy tries out there, we knew the damage is starting slowly to be done.”
The Lions also received a lot of praise from the Reds, who were in awe with the intensity that the Joburg franchise had on the field, and said it was a “model” of what they wanted to achieve.
“The way the Lions play football is the way. The intensity they bring is a wonderful lesson for our guys, it is where I want to take them as a team,” coach Nic Stiles said.
“I remember 2014 and we played the Lions here and we just lost. But you’ve seen what the Lions have done since then and the development they’ve made as a group, working hard and looking at the bigger picture and wanting to get better in smaller steps each week.
“You see how intense they play the game each week on the field, it is a good model for us with what we want to do as well.”