Planet Rugby

Lions battling to overcome injuries

16th April 2014 15:11

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Warren Whiteley Lions captain SR 2014

In a race to be fit: Warren Whiteley

Lions boss Johann Ackermann is battling to overcome injuries ahead of his side's clash with the Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday.

The Johannesburg-based franchise is already without the services of full-back Andries Coetzee (knee) and centre Alwyn Hollenbach (lip) and could lose three more players before Ackermann announces his team on Thursday.

While some players are close to passing fitness tests, Ackermann needs to consider whether or not to risk them this weekend or to give them enough rest as the Lions have a bye next weekend before going on their Australasian tour.

A major injury concern is Lions captain and back-row Warren Whiteley, who is nursing a calf muscle injury. He will be given until Thursday to prove his fitness

"But then we have to look at the balance," Ackermann told Supersport.

"Do we play him and lose him for the tour or keep him back and ensure he is there."

Veteran hooker Willie Wepener is in a similar situation with a hamstring injury. He will also haven until Thursday to prove his fitness.

Utility back Deon van Rensburg's has a knee injury which is not serious, and the Lions medical staff have advised Ackermann that he can play this weekend if selected.

"But the safe option would be to rest him," admitted Ackermann.

"We need to weigh up all these options before making a decision."

Coetzee's injury is probably the worst. He underwent a knee scrape to remove cartilage and will be sidelined for two to three weeks while Hollenbach had nerve tissue reattached to his lip injury that will rule him out for two weeks.

If you factor in Van Rensburg, Wepener and Whiteley, that could mean at least five changes to the side that lost to the Cell C Sharks last weekend for this weekend's game at Newlands.

"This wasn't a good Saturday for us in terms of injuries," Ackermann sighed, adding that the team's depth will be tested.

If Whiteley is ruled out Willie Britz is set to move to number eight alongside Derick Minnie and Jaco Kriel in the back row. Minnie is likely to take over the captaincy as well.

Robbie Coetzee should Wepener, although SA U20 representative Malcolm Marx is also in the selection mix.

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