JOHANNESBURG – Springbok rugby fans, and coach Rassie Erasmus too, are collectively holding their breath that Lions hooker Malcolm Marx isn’t too seriously injured after leaving the field during his team’s Super Rugby match against the Hurricanes on Saturday.
Marx cried off early in the game with what later would be diagnosed as a groin injury, something that set the Lions back in their attempt to get the better of the 2016 champions.
In the end the Hurricanes won 28-19, consigning the visitors to their fifth defeat in 11 matches this season – and second loss on tour.
Swys de Bruin’s men started their tour of Australasia on a massive high with a 29-0 win against the Waratahs in Sydney, but they have now lost to the Reds (27-22) and the Canes.
The loss of Marx in the ninth minute, though, will be more worrying for Springbok fans and for coach Erasmus than for the Lions at this stage.
Last season’s SA Rugby Player of the Year was one of a few certainties to play for the Boks next month in the one-off Test against Wales in Washington and in the three-Test series with England, but his participation will now be in doubt.
Marx will return to Johannesburg on Sunday and undergo scans to determine the severity of the groin strain, but he is likely to be out of action for anything from four weeks to 10 weeks.
A grade one strain will usually keep a rugby player out for two to three weeks, after which he will slowly start running again and return to playing at week four.
A grade two strain will see him start running again only after four to six weeks, and a grade three will keep him from running until after eight to 10 weeks.
“Losing Malcolm so early was a big blow,” admitted De Bruin after his team’s loss. “He’ll undergo scans on Tuesday, and then we’ll see.”
The Lions have indicated they won’t call up a replacement for Marx for their final game, in Dunedin against the Highlanders next weekend, meaning Robbie Coetzee will start, with any one of the props serving as back-up hooker.
De Bruin’s men were outclassed and outplayed by the team that beat them in the 2016 final at the same venue, with wing Ben Lam getting a hat trick of tries.
The Lions were beaten in the possession stakes and in the territorial battle, and defensively allowed their opponents off the hook far too easily.
Flank Ardie Savea also scored a try for the Canes, while Nic Groom, Marnus Schoeman and a late breakaway try by replacement back Sylvian Mahuza gave the scoreline some respectability, but the reality is the tourists were well and truly beaten.
“We’re disappointed with the defeat, but I don’t want to judge the players on effort,” said De Bruin.
“It was one of those games... I thought there was a lot more effort than against the Reds. The Hurricanes are a strong team, but we had our opportunities, and didn’t use them.
“We’ll keep fighting, keep working hard and try to finish the tour on a high note.”
Both Lions and Springbok fans will be hoping that Marx’s groin injury is not too serious; as his presence in Super Rugby and in the June Tests can make a big difference to the teams.
The Lions wrap up their tour with a match against the Highlanders on Saturday, with kickoff at 9.35am.