Lions hooked on success
The Lions may not have the services of hooker Callie Visagie for their two-match series with the Kings, but coach Johan Ackermann is not perturbed.
The Lions may not have the services of hooker Callie Visagie for the first round of their two-match series with the Southern Kings, but coach Johan Ackermann is not perturbed.
Visagie has remained with the Bulls ahead of their Super Rugby semifinal showdown with the Brumbies in Pretoria on Saturday.
The blow, as result of Visagie's absence, has been soften considerably by the return of Martin Bezuidenhout from the Stormers - as well as the great form of young stay-at-home hookers Robbie Coetzee and Francois du Toit.
Ackermann, speaking to this website ahead of the first of the two promotion-relegation matches in Port Elizabeth on Friday, said Visagie will be involved with the Bulls this week and possibly next week it the men from Pretoria advance to the Super Rugby Final.
That means the Lions have only three of their loan players returning for their own play-off series - in PE this week (July 26) and Johannesburg next Saturday (August 3).
Franco van der Merwe (back from the Sharks), Elton Jantjies and Martin Bezuidenhout (both from the Stormers) have been training with the Lions since last Monday.
"The agreement between the CEO's was that if a team reaches the play-offs, the loan players stay on," Ackermann said about Visagie's extended stay in Pretoria.
"We've been told he will be involved in the semifinal [between the Bulls and the Brumbies] at the weekend."
However, the Lions mentor is happy with the quality of the stock he has in his squad.
"I think Bez [Bezuidenhout] brings lots of experience back [from the Stormers] and it should soften the blow," the coach said, adding: "Obviously Callie [Visagie] had a great season with us last year.
"It is a tough one - Swys [Francois du Toit] and Robbie [Coetzee] both played very good rugby and now we have Bez back.
"It would be difficult to say how much of a setback [his absence is] or impact Callie [Visagie] would have made.
"I am just thankful that we have three very good hookers to choose from."
Meanwhile Ackermann confirmed that ace scrumhalf Michael Bondesio took a blow to the knee as is a doubtful starter.
"We are waiting to see if he will be fit," the coach said, adding that all the other players are ready to go.
Previously injured players like Jaco Kriel, Derrick Minnie, Warren Whiteley and Alwyn Hollenbach have all recovered.
By Jan de Koning