JOHANNESBURG – Up to 12 players have been lost to the union since the end of Super Rugby, another five are training with the Springboks ahead of the international season, and a further eight players are on the injured list.
It’s anyone’s guess then who’ll run out for the Lions when they open their Currie Cup challenge against the Pumas at Ellis Park this weekend.
Add in the fact loan player from the Cape, tighthead prop Carlu Sadie - who was so good for the Lions during the recent Super Rugby campaign - won’t be returning to Joburg any time soon, and Ivan van Rooyen’s team could have a very different look to it in the coming weeks.
The latest players to go down with injury are flank Cyle Brink and wing Courtnall Skosan, who’ve joined the likes of Warren Whiteley, Gianni Lombard and some fringe players, on the sidelines.
Gone from the union are Ruan Combrinck, Harold Vorster, Lionel Mapoe, Nic Groom, Franco Naude, Stephan Lewies, Robert Kruger, Danie Mienie, among others, while Malcolm Marx, Marvin Orie, Kwagga Smith, Elton Jantjies and Aphiwe Dyantyi are involved with the Springboks.
The good news is the Lions developed a great deal of depth during Super Rugby and will still have some experienced men to call on in the coming weeks and months.
Here one thinks of backs like Andries Coetzee, Ross Cronje, Shaun Reynolds, Dillon Smit and seemingly also Madosh Tambwe, even though he has been heavily linked with a move to the Sharks.
Wandisile Simelane and Tyrone Green now also have Super Rugby experience behind them.
In the forwards, coach Van Rooyen will have James Venter, Marnus Schoeman, Hacjivah Dayimani, Vincent Tshituka, Rhyno Herbst, Reinard Nothnagel, Wilhelm van der Sluys, Ruan Vermaak, Dylan Smith, Jan-Henning Campher, Sti Sithole, Johannes Jonker and veteran Jacobie Adriaanse to call on.
The Lions are spread most thinly at the back and finding a new midfield pairing will be Van Rooyen and Co’s biggest task.
All the centres who featured regularly in the last few years - Mapoe, Vorster, Naude, Howard Mnisi and Rohan Janse van Rensburg - are no longer Lions players.
Scrumhalf Cronje and prop Smith will be the favourites to lead the side in the absence of Whiteley, Kwagga Smith, Orie and Marx.
The Lions go into this year’s Currie Cup on the back of a disappointing Super Rugby campaign, where they won just eight of their 16 matches, and having finished third in the points table in last year’s competition.
They lost their semi-final to eventual winners, the Sharks.
Saturday’s game against the Pumas at Ellis Park kicks off at 3pm.@jacq_west