Confirmed: EW Viljoen will be out of the Lions squad for at least four weeks
JOHANNESBURG - Let's talk about full-back.
The Xerox Lions now find themselves spread thin in that position after the union confirmed on Monday that No 15 EW Viljoen will be out of the squad for at least four weeks due to a Grade II tear to his right hamstring. Coupled with the long-term injury to utility-back Gianni Lombard, and now the Joburgers find themselves facing something of a mini-crisis in selection.
EW Viljoen limped off in the 32th minute against the Griquas in the Lions' narrow and lightning affected 20-17 victory in Kimberley in the Carling Currie Cup. Tiaan Schoeman came on as a replacement, and enjoyed a brief period of action in the No 15 jumper before the match was called off in the 47th minute.
The concern here is that Schoeman is currently also the cover for captain, playmaker and flyhalf Elton Jantjies, and will now force coach Ivan van Rooyen to relook the make-up of his back three as he prepares for Saturday's clash against the Western Province (kick off 7pm).
Former Blue Bulls player Divan Rossouw has yet to make a competitive appearance this season for the Lions, and although he is listed as a utility-back, the Namibian-born player has cut his teeth as a senior at full-back for the Pretoria-based team and Tuks in the Varsity Cup. Try-scoring machine Courtnall Skosan has also played at full-back previously, but is currently enjoying a purple-patch on the wing. Rabz Maxwane has, admittedly, also played a little as a No 15.
Van Rooyen could possibly surprise all by naming Jamba Ulengo in that role, but the Springbok is most comfortable on the wing, and it would no doubt be a massive call to do so. Luckily, the Lions coach has a couple of options to consider if he looks at the broader picture at the union. There are a handful of Under-21 cubs that can sit on the bench as cover.
Nineteen-year-old Shaun Baxter played last month at 15 for the Lions U21s in their loss to the Bulls in the Provincial final, while James-Henry Mollentze, who can play at centre and flyhalf, and Marc Morrison also participated in that game at flyhalf, if Van Rooyen opts to rather use Schoeman as his starting full-back.
In other news, the team also revealed that loose-forward Hacjivah Dayimani will be out for three months after he sustained a knee injury.
Though unfortunate, his absence will have a lesser impact on the team as they are currently flush with talent in that department as it is made up of Len Massyn, Vincent Tshithuka, Jaco Kriel, Roelof Smith, Marnus Schoeman and MJ Pelser. Willem Alberts, currently employed as a lock in the team setup, can also move to the back of the scrum if so required.
The Lions announce their team for their clash against the WP on Thursday.