JOHANNESBURG - The Golden Lions will head to Newlands later this week with a new captain leading the side.
New recruit Ryan Kankowski, who has led the team in their first four matches in this year’s Currie Cup, is expected to be out of action for a lengthy period after injuring his groin last weekend.
Also ruled out of action for the foreseeable future is scrumhalf Dillon Smit, who broke his ankle last Saturday. He will have surgery on Friday, the same day as the Lions’ match against WP.
The most likely contender to take over the captaincy from Kankowski would be Kwagga Smith, but he is serving a suspension; handed down last week following his mid-air collision with Crusaders fullback David Havili in the Super Rugby final.
Loosehead prop Jacques van Rooyen - who was rested for last week’s game against the Sharks - is now the favourite to lead the side, while Jaco van der Walt is also an option.
Besides Van Rooyen possibly returning to action this week, tighthead prop Ruan Dreyer could also be in the mix and so, too, Andries Ferreira and Harold Vorster.
In some good news for the team, hooker Robbie Coetzee was cleared to play after sitting through a disciplinary hearing late on Monday. He was shown a red card just after half-time on Saturday against the Sharks for kicking Jacques Vermeulen in the head, a game-changing decision which played into the hands of the visitors.
But Coetzee, who was also given a red card in Super Rugby earlier in the year, got off yesterday after the hearing found his actions were “entirely accidental”.
Besides the forced changes De Bruin will have to make to his side at eighthman and scrumhalf, he will also consider bringing in some seasoned stalwarts in a few other positions, especially with the Lions needing a boost. They have only won once in the competition.
The Lions though, while still relatively strong in some areas, look thin at hooker and scrumhalf where the depth at the union will be severely tested going forward. With Malcolm Marx at the Boks and Akker van der Merwe now playing for the Sharks, Coetzee is the only experienced man at hooker.
And, while Marco Janse van Vuuren performed well when he replaced Smit at No 9 on Saturday, there is precious little experience to back him up with Ross Cronje at the Boks and Faf de Klerk now playing overseas.
With so many Springbok players missing, others having hot-footed it to Japan until next year and now the injury bug biting hard, new head coach De Bruin has it all to do to get the Lions back on the winning track.
The Lions team for that match is likely to be named on Tuesday or Wednesday.