Boks, Lions wait­ing on wounded White­ley

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - JAC­QUES VAN DER WESTHUYZEN

SOUTH Africa will have to wait a lit­tle longer to find out how long Spring­bok cap­tain War­ren White­ley will be on the side­lines.

The Lions, too, who’re wellplaced to fea­ture strongly in the lat­ter stages of the Su­per Rugby com­pe­ti­tion – which gets un­der­way again this week­end fol­low­ing the June break – will be ea­ger to as­cer­tain 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 yes­ter­day, 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 com­pounded by the un­avail­abil­ity of loose for­wards Hanro Lieben­berg (an­kle), Hen­dre Stassen (knee), prop Martin Dreyer (an­kle), scrumhalf Piet van Zyl (lung in­fec­tion) and util­ity back Ul­rich Bey­ers (calf), leav­ing the Bulls with very lit­tle to choose from their ini­tial squad.

A source of com­fort for Marais will be the avail­abil­ity of his re­turn­ing Spring­boks, with stage.

What is clear though is 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 un­der­way 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 Lood de Jager, Jan Ser­fontein, Lizo Gqoboka, Jesse Kriel, Rudy Paige and SA ‘A’ stars Ja­son Jenk­ins, War­rick Ge­lant and Trevor Nyakane all hav­ing had some de­cent game time at in­ter­na­tional level.

Flank Roelof Smit is also back to full fit­ness but is likely to fea­ture for the Blue Bulls in the Su­per­Sport Rugby Chal­lenge quar­ter-fi­nal against the Sharks.

“Edgar’s an­kle op­er­ated was the week­end – with Kwagga Smith stay­ing in the No 6 jumper, and Ruan Ack­er­mann shift­ing to eighth­man.

Of course, head coach Ack­er­mann could also al­ways 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 Cronj– (who should be over his con­cus­sion), Lionel Mapoe, An­dries Fer­reira, Ruan Com­brinck, Ack­er­mann and Kriel – all with the Boks or SA ‘A’ – should be hun­gry for ac­tion af­ter hav­ing lim­ited play­ing time over the last month. (yes­ter­day) and he will be out for six to eight weeks.

“All the Boks are back this week. Jamba and Travis will be train­ing with but they won’t be avail­able and they will only be ready next week,” Ros­souw said.

Af­ter the Sharks game, the Bulls will play the Kings a week later at home and will fin­ish off the sea­son against the Storm­ers at Lof­tus on July 15.

Another mat­ter for coach “Akkies” – as the play­ers re­fer to him – to con­sider is the fact 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 are 12 wins from 13 and al­ready se­cured of a quar­ter­fi­nals slot.

Whether White­ley plays this week or not, the Lions will be hot favourites to make it 13 wins for the sea­son on Satur­day.

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