Ross Cronje will bring degree of composure behind Lions pack
JOHANNESBURG - The Lions escaped mostly unscathed, concerning injuries, after their opening Super Rugby Unlocked encounter against the Sharks last Friday.
Dillon Smit was the only injury in their 19-16 loss after having dislocated his shoulder. The extent of the scrumhalf's injury was revealed in a scan on Saturday and he was scheduled to see a specialist on Monday.
Depending on the severity of the injury and applying the worst-case scenario, Smit could be out for the majority of the season. His time on the sidelines, however, has yet to be confirmed by the union.
It was another case of bad luck blues for the scrummie, who has suffered multiple injuries in his career, only to recently return to the fold and secure a starting berth but now, once again, finds himself sitting on the bleachers.
Luckily for coach Ivan van Rooyen, he has a handful of options in the crucial position.
Youngster Morne van den Berg, who came onto the field in the first half to replace the injured Smit, had a good outing at the back of the pack. He was generally a live-wire presence throughout the encounter at Kings Park, servicing his backline with quick ball, defending staunchly and even affecting a turnover or two while working at the breakdowns.
It was not all roses and peaches for Van den Berg on Friday night though - a handful of his box kicks failed to deliver the desired result, but then he found himself battling the elements in this regard.
Nevertheless, Van Rooyen will most likely call upon the experience of Springbok scrumhalf Ross Cronje.
The 31-year-old was not involved in the defeat against the Sharks, but the 10-times capped international will no doubt add a degree of composure behind the first eight in what is shaping up to be a titanic forwards' battle between an improving Lions pack and arguably the most star-studded and dangerous forwards in the tournament in the Stormers.
Cronje also ran out as captain for the Johannesburg team in their training match against the Pumas earlier this month.
Former Blue Bulls man Andre Werner could also avail himself to Van Rooyen, and could well find himself supplementing Cronje for the trip to Cape Town as he too will bring much needed level-headedness to the upcoming clash.
Elsewhere, Springbok tourist and another former Bulls player, Roelof Smit, will return to full training this week, bolstering the depth that the Lions have in a loose-forwards group that includes Jaco Kriel, Marnus Schoeman, Vincent Tshituka, Len Massyn and Hacjivah Dayimani.
Tshituka, in particular, had an excellent match against the Sharks, and Smit will no doubt find himself competing against the 22-year-old, as well as incumbent Kriel and Dayimani, for a spot in any matchday squad.
The Lions will name their team to face the Stormers on Thursday.