JOHANNESBURG – South Africa will have to wait a little longer to find out for how long Springbok captain Warren Whiteley will be on the sidelines.
The Lions, who are well-placed to feature strongly in the latter stages of the Super Rugby competition – which gets under way again this weekend following the June break – will also be eager to find out just how bad his groin injury is.
Whiteley missed the third Test against France at Ellis Park after falling awkwardly in training last week, with national coach Allister Coetzee confirming on Saturday night that the No 8 had “a little tear” in the groin.
Whiteley underwent a number of tests on Monday, including having an MRI scan done, a sonar, and blood tests. The Lions said they’d only have the results of the tests at a later stage.
What is clear though is that Whiteley will almost certainly not feature for the Lions when they resume their Super Rugby duties against the Sunwolves at Ellis Park on Saturday.
But depending on the severity of the injury – and it seems he’s been nursing it for some time – he could be back to lead the Boks when the Rugby Championship gets under way in the second half of August; that’s still two months away.
For now though, Lions boss Johan Ackermann will probably have to make do without his inspirational leader in Super Rugby.
With Jaco Kriel fit again and coming off a decent outing for the Boks in the third Test, he is sure to go straight back into the Lions side after missing several games before the international break because of a knee injury.
It could turn out that he’ll continue wearing the No 7 jersey – as he did for the Boks at the weekend – with Kwagga Smith staying in the No 6 jumper, and Ruan Ackermann shifting to eighthman.
Of course, head coach Ackermann could also go for Cyle Brink or Robert Kruger at No 8, or even Fabian Booysen.
It’ll be interesting to see who exactly Ackermann picks for this weekend’s match after several Lions players were either involved with the Boks or the SA A side in the last three weeks.
Malcolm Marx, Franco Mostert, Elton Jantjies, Courtnall Skosan and Andries Coetzee played virtually every minute of all three Tests and could be somewhat fatigued, especially the forwards.
Ruan Dreyer, Ross Cronjé (who should be over his concussion), Lionel Mapoe, Andries Ferreira, Ruan Combrinck, Ruan Ackermann and Kriel – all with the Boks or SA A – should be hungry for action after having limited playing time over the last month.
Another matter for coach “Akkies” – as the players refer to him – to consider is the fact that the Lions have their second bye next week, after just one game back. Ackermann might want to send his strongest side into the field this Saturday to make sure the Lions pick up all five points on offer, before everyone gets next week off.
The Lions, with so many of their players having enjoyed game time recently, will be match-fit and in confident mood this weekend, while the Sunwolves’ players will never be in the same shape as their opponents – and could be in for a real wake-up at Ellis Park.
As it is, the visitors from Japan have won only once in 12 matches; the Lions have 12 wins from 13 and already sure of a quarter-final slot.
Whether Whiteley plays this week or not, the Lions will be hot favourites to make it 13 wins for the season on Saturday.