JOHANNESBURG – The conclave of coaches at the Lions will have to rejig their plans slightly as they build towards their preparation match against the Eastern Province next week.
As revealed by the union on Wednesday, fullback EW Viljoen and Springbok tourist Roelof Smit both sustained injuries during last week Friday’s 32-28 victory against the Pumas, and will be out for a handful of weeks. Though an irritation for head coach Ivan van Rooyen and preparation matches coach Mziwakhe Nkosi, the injuries have come at an early stage of the season, and if all goes well during their recuperation, both players should be eligible for selection during the early stages of the Rainbow Cup, which starts in April.
Viljoen is expected to be out for three weeks after injuring his left knee. It is not a repeat of the injury he suffered at the end of November last year when he tore his right hamstring during the Lions’ truncated Currie Cup encounter against the Griquas in Kimberley.
Smit, meanwhile, has had a torrid time of it since 2016 regarding his fitness and the latest set-back will be up to four weeks as he recovers from a Grade II superficial MCL tear in his left knee. The 28-year-old has had limited game time at the Lions, having only made a handful of appearances for the team, so from a personal perspective the latest check on his career will halt his push for a more frequent role within the squad. However, Smit is a quality player, and if his fitness holds, will no doubt be a part of the Lions’ plans when he finally returns.
The Lions fielded a youthful and fringe-packed side last week against the Pumas, and much the same is expected on Wednesday next week when they face the EP. That team will be announced on Monday afternoon.