Tiaan Swanepoel recovering well as Lions’ flyhalf situation improves
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Johannesburg – The road to recovery and match-fitness is almost complete for the Emirates Lions’ Tiaan Swanepoel, coach Ivan van Rooyen revealed in an interview with Independent Media on Wednesday.
Due to injuries to Jordan Hendrikse and Eddie Fouche during the Joburgers recently concluded United rugby Championship tour of Europe, the Lions found themselves dangerously thin at No 10. The lack of depth in that position was further exacerbated by the non-availability and departure of Lions stalwart Elton Jantjies and Gianni Lombard, who is also leaving for Japan.
Bereft of a recognised flyhalf for their last two matches in Europe, EW Viljoen stepped up to the plate and accounted for himself with some solid displays against Glasgow and more recently against Ulster. Fred Zeilinga was also flown in to shore up the position in the last match in Belfast and played the final five minutes of that encounter.
The next month, however, will see a change in fortunes for Van Rooyen as the multi-talented Swanepoel is scribbled in for a return after fracturing his right fibula in May. Hendrikse’s recovery from a fractured ankle is also on track and he could return before the start of the new year, as revealed in a statement by the union a fortnight ago.
Said Van Rooyen with a self-knowing chuckle: “We do have EW, who did a very, very good job.”
“We also flew Freddie in last week, and I think you could see that last 10 to five minutes that he was on the field, the way he plays and just being a natural 10, he kind of got our attacking play, continuity going, and we put (Ulster) under more pressure there.
“Hopefully,” the coach continued, “Jordan isn’t out for an extended period and also Tiaan Swanepeol is recovering from that leg break and he should probably be ready to fire once we start training again. Luckily, there are still resources in hand and that is a positive for us ...
Prompted for more details regarding Swanepoel, Van Rooyen revealed: “The last two weeks he (Swanepoel) managed to train full out and do everything. He could train within the team environment. There shouldn’t be any reason why, in four weeks from now, he should be fully selectable.”
The Lions are currently enjoying a hiatus and will return to training at the beginning of November. And there was more good news for the team’s supporters. Barring lock Pieter Jansen van Vuren’s injury, and the aforementioned injuries to Hendrikse and Fouche, all their players are injury free.
“Obviously,” said Van Rooyen, “Pieter got injured on tour but luckily Willem Alberts is also back to full fitness.”
The team’s first assignment after their return will be Cardiff on November 28, followed by Munster – both matches to be played at Emirates Airline Park.