JOHANNESBURG – Key Springboks Warren Whiteley and Malcolm Marx both came through their Super Rugby warm-up game unscathed and will feature for the Lions when the competition resumes this weekend.
Whiteley and Marx - who are set to play prominent roles at the business end of the competition - are back in the mix after spending several weeks on the sidelines with injury. They both featured for the Golden Lions in a Rugby Challenge match on Sunday against the Bulls.
Whiteley has suffered with a long-term knee injury, which has ruled him out of action for most of the season, while Marx hurt his shoulder just before the June international break. Neither of them played for the Boks in the series against England.
Also back this week and in the frame for selection for the match against the Sharks in Durban on Saturday are Cyle Brink and Lionel Mapoe.
They, too, missed a few weeks of action in the latter stages of May.
The Lions will be banking on Marx making a strong return and staying injury-free as the man who replaced him in the starting side, Robbie Coetzee, is now done for the season. The one-time Bok tourist recently underwent a knee operation and won’t play again this year.
It means head coach Swys de Bruin will have Marx and Corne Fourie at his disposal at the business end of Super Rugby.
Fourie has played at hooker for most of this season, but he only converted from prop in the off-season.
It will be interesting to see how De Bruin manages his Bok players this week as Franco Mostert, Elton Jantjies and Aphiwe Dyantyi all played a vastly different number of minutes in the England series.
Mostert, who started all three Tests, could get a rest for the trip to Kings Park, but he is also a player who thrives on the action and prefers to stay active rather than take time off. Dyantyi also started all three Tests, but as a backline player, didn’t nearly see as much action as Mostert, while Jantjies only started the final Test in Cape Town last weekend, having played off the bench in the first Test and sat out the second Test.
The other Bok players in the Lions squad that De Bruin can consider are Ruan Dreyer, Kwagga Smith, Ross Cronje, who is also fit again after spending a long time on the sidelines, Courtnall Skosan, Andries Coetzee and Ruan Combrinck.
Skosan is likely to also play his first Super Rugby match of the season after missing the first half of the year because of injury.
The only regular players who won’t come into the mix this week are Jaco Kriel and Rohan Janse van Rensburg, who have long-term injuries.
Several Lions players - among them Mostert and Dreyer - announced before the June international break that they would be continuing their careers in Europe from next season, but they will want to finish on a high at Ellis Park and hope to go one better than they did in 2016 and 2017 when the Johannesburg-based team lost in the final.
After this week’s match, the Lions enjoy a bye and then finish their league campaign with a match against the Bulls at Ellis Park.@jacq_west