File picture: Scrumhalf Ross Cronje was the big casualty of the Lions trip to Polokwane, with coach Johan Ackermann yesterday expressing concern about the experienced No 9. Picture by: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Scrumhalf Ross Cronje was the big casualty of the Lions’ trip to Polokwane, with coach Johan Ackermann yesterday expressing concern about the experienced No 9.

Cronje, who was so influential in the Lions’ run to the Currie Cup title last season and was set to start this Super Rugby campaign as the first-choice scrumhalf, broke his nose in the pre-season warm-up game against the Bulls on Saturday.

“It looks worse than Kwagga Smith’s nose,” said Ackermann yesterday. “It’s a really bad break and we can just hope nothing has moved inside or that a little bone is badly broken,” said Ackermann. “Ross was in a lot of pain afterwards and there’s a lot of swelling but the doctors will decide (today) whether he needs to be operated on.

“If he does go under the knife we’re looking at about eight weeks out.”

That would leave De Klerk as the only experienced No 9 in the Lions group, with Ricky Schroeder likely to come into the squad.

Fortunately, there were no other serious injuries.

The Bulls won the game 28-24 after Jamba Ulengo crossed for the winning try moments after the Lions had taken the lead through Ruan Combrinck and looked to be on their way to victory.

Ackermann, though, said he got what he wanted out of the game. “Our scrums were good, but we battled in the line-outs, and our discipline was pretty poor, too, especially at the breakdowns,” said the coach. “Those are areas we are going to have to work on.

“Also, we missed too many one-on-one tackles, like when we conceded that late try to lose the game. Those are individual errors you simply can’t afford in Super Rugby.

“In the end, though, I was fairly happy with what I saw. We didn’t show anything of our structure or our plays ... we just played a basic game, and the important thing is we learned what we wanted to and the guys got some valuable time to shake off the rust.

“We’ve now got a base to work from and we’ll look to this weekend’s game against the Jaguares to try sort out the errors of Saturday.”

Ackermann said he was very pleased with the performances of some key individuals, but admitted others hadn’t grabbed their chance.

“I’m going to be fair and honest with the guys who played well on Saturday and they’ll sit out this week to stay fresh and injury-free.

“But a few others will get a chance again this weekend and they’re going to have to show me they’re up to speed and ready to tour with us. Then there are those players who didn’t travel to Polokwane who’ll come into the picture this weekend.”

The Lions boss was full of praise for the Bulls effort and said they’d be back to their best this season. “Credit to them; they never lay down and what impressed me about their effort was the way their key players calmed things down throughout the game. They’ve also got a lot of experience in those key areas and I’m sure they’re going to have a good competition.”

The Lions face the Jaguares, who lost to the Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday, at Ellis Park this Saturday. - The Star